The Carolina Hurricanes took to the ice after almost a full week of practice Friday night against the red-hot Ottawa Senators in Raleigh. Ottawa, coming off of two straight wins Tuesday and Wednesday night, played their third game in 4 nights, and their first since learning that star Jason Spezza would miss much of the rest of the season with a back injury. The Hurricanes last played Monday, which was a 5-3 home loss to the Bruins. With a set of back-to-backs coming for the Canes, coach Kirk Muller elected to go with backup goaltender Dan Ellis between the pipes. Muller’s decision paid off in a big way, as Ellis recorded a 1-0 shutout of the Senators and gave the Canes their 3rd win of the season.
Ellis made 33 saves for his 13th career shutout in front of an incredibly defensively sound team. The Hurricanes defensemen blocked shots and got in passing lanes, and the forwards were excellent on the back-check all night. ”I think one of the best things we did was blocking out, blocking shots, clearing rebounds – we really didn’t do much wrong tonight defensively,” said Ellis. In two starts on the young season, Ellis is 2-0 with only one goal allowed and an astonishing .977 save percentage. Ottawa’s goaltender Craig Anderson, who’s been spectacular all season long, also played well. Anderson had 34 saves and the only shot that beat him was a deflection out in front.
Alex Semin forced a turnover in the offensive zone and threw the puck at the net where captain Eric Staal was in front to deflect the top over Anderson. ”He’s a guy that just backs off defenses,” Staal said. ”If they’re going to be aggressive, he’s got the skills to make them pay with a one-on-one move that not a lot of guys can do.”Staal’s goal was the only offense on the night for either team as both teams played solid defensively for most of the night. Jeff Skinner rang a shot off the crossbar in the second period, but neither team could get anything going offensively.
The powerplay on both sides had little to no influence on the game; both teams went 0-4 with the man advantage. The Canes’ powerplay has become somewhat of a worry for the team. Despite all the firepower available up front, the Canes have only mustered 3 PP goals in 30 chances. If the Hurricanes want to compete for a top spot in the East, they’ll have to get the man advantage going soon. The penalty kill was excellent though; as they killed off 4 penalties, include a 4-minute high stick infraction from Jamie McBain.
The Hurricanes embark on a 12 day, 6 game road swing that beings tonight in Philadelphia against the Flyers. The Hurricanes don’t return to home ice until Valentine’s Day, and this will be a true test of character as the team attempts to come together on the road and come away with a few points.