Is Coach Peters Giving Lack a Challenge Tonight?
March 16, 2017, 1:24 PM ET [0 Comments]
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Eric Staal is returning to the PNC Arena for the second time since being traded at the deadline last year. He has become a major addition for the Wild offense and has registered 53 points (23g, 30a). I was glad to see him sign with a top-team and find his game again—you could tell towards the end of his time in Carolina that it didn’t appear he wanted to be on the ice.
While he is having a strong season, I doubt it will be that warm of a welcome for him as many Caniacs were disappointed with his results during his final years of a high paying contract. Many pointed to his attitude and the fact it appeared he didn't see eye-to-eye with Coach Peters on his usage. Simply put, Staal needed a change in scenery desperately.
Looking at the Wild’s lines, he is set to center Niederreiter and Coyle—I imagine this line will create tons of match-up problems for the Canes. This line provides the Wild with good size, as well as strong possession numbers. A major key for the Canes to win tonight will be to be able to physically match-up and win net-front battles defensively. Many teams that have offensively gifted lines with good size have given the Canes tons of problems defensively.
Staal’s line may cause match-up issues for the Canes, but the Wild still have two other lines that produce offense in bunches. Ultimately, the Wild have a very deep top-9 and even their fourth line can produce offense occasionally.
I’d like to say that I am optimistic about the chances to win tonight, however, that would be a bold face lie. The Wild possess so many scoring threats, there is a real possibility that this is a loop-sided affair similar to recent results against teams like the Capitals and Penguins.
The one potentially good aspect going into the night is that it appears Darcy Kuemper will be starting. He is posting significantly lower stats than the Wild’s starter, Devan Dubnyk. This might allow the Canes to find some early offense and potentially swing enough momentum their way to pull out an unlikely W.
The Canes in recent games have been throwing everything at the net—if Kuemper is starting, that needs to be one of the Canes major priorities. Unfortunately, the Wild also have one of the league’s top blue-lines, so that task may be easy said than done tonight.
The Canes also got some good news injury-wise. The Canes have been banged up, as McClement, Zykov, McGinn and Di Giuseppe have battled recent injuries. McGinn appears set to return to the line-up today. He will bring a strong physical presence hopefully—in his previous eight games, he averaged four hits.
I was surprised to see Ward get back-to-back starts against the Islanders. If I had to guess, Coach Peters had this game circled for Lack coming into this week. Lack’s most recent start was a loss to the worst team in the NHL, the Avalanche. The decision to not play him against the Islanders and give him an elite team feels like a “challenge.”
Lack was certainly not responsible for the loss to the Avalanche, however, he hasn’t faced an “elite” team since his first start returning from his concussion. In that game, the Capitals blasted him and he did not appear ready to compete against elite competition. His recent starts against the Flames, Lightning, Coyotes and Avalanche aren’t exactly what you’d call “elite” opponents.
Given how popular Lack is within the locker-room, one has to wonder if he is also challenging the team to rally around Lack too. It’ll be very interesting to see which Canes team comes out and how Lack looks tonight.
Finally, Coach Peters scratched Tennyson tonight and replaced him with Murphy for the 6th D. This consistent revolving door has created liabilities on the 3rd D pair all season. While this has been a season long issue, it is especially concerning given the lack of current forward depth because of injuries.
Given the bottom two lines and third D pairing are consistently defensive liabilities, I am very concerned about how the Canes will contain the Wild tonight. I hope that Lack ate his Wheaties today, because he may be in for a busy evening.
Puck drop is at 7:00 and on FSCR and FSNO—Go Canes!