The Canes are on the road for a quick two-game swing through St. Louis and Chicago. Tonight, they will be taking on the Blues and are looking to snap a two-game skid. Both recent losses were disappointing because they dropped winnable games and missed a great chance to climb the standings.
A short trip to see some Western Conference teams may be exactly what the Canes need to snap back into form. Looking at their records this season, they are 7-3-3 against Western Conference teams (3-0-1 against Central). That is a drastic difference compared to their record against the Metropolitan: 2-7-2. In contrast, they are 7-4-2 against the Atlantic. Hopefully, the Canes can keep finding their winning ways against the Western Conference opponents.
The most notable news was the Canes claiming Ty Rattie off of waivers from the Blues—he was skating today on the first line with Rask and Skinner. It appears that he will get a chance immediately after getting put on waivers to show his old squad what he can do. I am most interested to see if he can be an offensive contribution at the NHL level because he has proven himself at all other levels.
Looking at Rattie, he was selected in the second round at 34th overall in the 2011 draft. According to EliteProspects scout, Matias Strozyk, Canes fans are getting, “A forward with a good hockey sense. A decent skater but has improved lately. Has very good hands. Works hard and takes care of his defensive duties. Has a good attitude. Needs to improve his skating and gain strength.”
The Canes roster is filled with guys who are average sized, skilled with the puck, solid defensively and good skaters—he seems to be another addition that will put pressure on guys like Nestrasil, Nordstrom and McGinn.
I think this will create more healthy competition between guys who are “interchangeable” and will force guys to start “learning” from mistakes. It will be similar to how overloaded the Canes blueline was for the 6th spot—look at the circus going on with Tennyson, Dahlbeck and Murphy right now.
Where I think he differs is in his AHL and WHL production. In just over four seasons in the WHL, Rattie put up 348 points in 269 games—151 were goals with one season seeing 57 goals in 69 games. In the AHL, Rattie continued with his scoring ways and in 196 games has notched 137 points (69G, 68A). From what I have read, Rattie needed more development last season and has been subject to a deep St. Louis team—this could potentially be a low risk, high reward acquisition for the Canes.
Speaking of healthy competition, Coach Peters is shuffling the lines again tonight. It appears that Murphy will be replacing Tennyson on the 3rd D unit—I think this has a lot to do with the fact that Tennyson was central in the GWG by Pitt and the first goal by NJD—while the game is 60 minutes, those two mistakes had a significant impact on the outcome. The Canes desperately need someone to step up and “own” the 6th D spot—this season the 6th spot has looked like a carousel.
The good news for the Canes blueline is that it appears Faulk will be returning to the line-up tonight. He was skating with Hainsey during the pre-game stake today but it hasn’t yet been 100% confirmed he is returning. This should help the Canes be more consistent defensively.
He has been missed by Ward for sure. The stats aren’t pretty in the four games Faulk has been out—Ward has lost three of his last four while posting a 2.58 GAA and .897 SV%. It is reported that Ward is likely to start tonight and he surely would benefit from a strong game. Faulk should help the top-4 on D provide more consistent D for Ward and the bottom unit won’t be as exploitable either.
Another aspect that Faulk brings to the Canes is his presence on the PP. As mentioned yesterday, the Canes PP is currently in a major funk and needs to find something soon. Many games are won by special teams and the decline in both the PP and PK have been noticeable on the scoreboard. The Blues are penalized 15th most in the NHL, so the Canes should get some chances on the PP tonight.
Looking at the Blues, they are a team that has very sound special teams. They are ninth in the NHL on the PP and are converting on 20.8% of their opportunities. The PK is 3rd in the NHL and kills 86.4% of opportunities against it. Since the beginning of December, both their PP and PK has declined a bit but nothing catastrophic.
The Blues are the type of match-up that worries me for the Canes. They are a strong/physical team, have some great blue-line threats, a few elite forwards and a grit/will to beat you in front of the net on offense/defense. Teams that have been able to out-work the Canes in front of both nets, tend to find ways to win.
The Canes have struggled against teams that have good options at the point—especially earlier in the season when many deflection and point goals were finding the twine. While these struggles have improved, both Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo are lethal offensively.
Another bright spot for the Blues D core has been the play of Parayko—he has shown some glimpses of great offensive vision and all 17 of his points are assists. He doesn’t appear to be afraid to shoot the puck either, as he has registered 96 shots—those 96 shots place him second on the team in SOG, only behind Tarasenko. Given this, it will be important that the Canes don’t lose track of him in the D-zone.
Offensively, the Blues have many threats but the most obvious is Tarasenko who has 41 points (18G, 23A), which is 16 more than anyone else on the team. While the top two lines for the Blues are all very gifted offensively, I think the Canes match-up well against them.
My fear is the bottom-6 where the Blues have guys like Berglund, Jaskin, Upshall, Brodziak, Reaves –these are the types of players that traditionally out-work and out-muscle the Canes. If the Canes want to have a shot, they have to find a way to match the intensity that the Blues bottom-6 forwards bring. I excluded Fabbri because he isn’t a “power forward,” however, offensively he is also gifted.
Looking at the Blues goaltending, Allen will be starting tonight. On the outside, many would believe this could be favorable for the Canes because he has lost five of his last eight starts while posting a 3.21 GAA and .893 SV%. However, when looking at his home performances, one will note that he is 12-2-2 with a 2.07 GAA and .921 SV% this season.
Given the Canes struggle on the road, the home statistics by Allen are not encouraging. The hope is that he is playing more like his past eight starts, as opposed to his home statistics. The Blues have struggled to keep the puck out of the net as a team—they are 23rd for goals allowed per game at 2.89.
Ultimately, this should be a good test for the Canes. A road win against a strong Blues team would definitely help improve the Canes confidence as a team. To recap, the keys tonight are:
• Win special teams battle
• Match physicality in front of both nets and win battles in front
• Contain the Blues 3rd and 4th lines
• Not have a defensive mental mistakes from the 3rd unit.
Puck drop is at 8:00 (EST) tonight and is on FSCR and FSMW. Go Canes!
The projected lines for the Canes tonight are: