(Update: Defenseman Bryan Rodney will be recalled from the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) and will join the Hurricanes in Florida on Wednesday.)
The Canes, sitting eight points out of playoff position in the East, are taking off today for back-to-back road games against the Florida Panthers and Atlanta Thrashers, knowing what to expect: Namely, two tough divisional games and the possibility of small crowds and little in the way of atmosphere.
Granted, the Thrashers' surge this season may be putting more bodies in the seats in Atlanta's Philips Arena. But games at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., usually attract small gatherings and it could be the same tomorrow night.
"It's a big week to claw back in and give yourself an opportunity to make those games-in-hand mean a lot more," Canes coach Paul Maurice said today. "I like the way we've played on the road here a little bit and pretty healthy, so feel pretty good."
The Canes will be without defenseman Jay Harrison on the two-game trip, Maurice said today. Harrison suffered an upper-body injury against the St. Louis Blues and has not practiced the last two days.
Defenseman Bryan Rodney will be recalled from the Charlotte Checkers (AHL), Maurice said today. Rodney will join the team in Florida Wednesday.
The Canes (12-12-4) came up empty in all three road games against the Panthers last season and were thumped 7-4 on Nov. 4, in their first visit this season. They've lost five of the last six in Sunrise. What is it about that place by the Everglades?
"Florida, we've struggled in that building for an awful long time," Maurice said. "I think every time we go down there we expect an easy game. I'd like to think we've been well-schooled in the grinding road game by now and it will give us a good chance to play well in there."
Maurice said a lack of electricity in an arena almost always helps the visitors, in that the home team can feed off its crowd. But games in BankAtlantic seem to adversely affect the Canes, as well.
"It gets going when (the Panthers) are going, but they're not a big scoring team either," Maurice said. "Atlanta, I think, will change but, boy, we've seen some quiet buildings in there.
"The game is played best when there's lot of energy in the building, there's no question about that. ... When you're playing 82 games of a full-contact sport and you get into a quiet building, some nights it's harder to get the legs churning."
The Panthers (13-15-0) briefly moved ahead of the Canes after a big win in Washington over the Caps but now sit in last place in the Southeast Division, two points behind the Canes. The Thrashers (17-11-3) have won eight of their last 10 games and are nine points in front of the Canes.
"They're two big games for us, obviously," center Brandon Sutter said. "We're playing teams we're either just ahead of or chasing, so they are two big games for us. We haven't played Atlanta this year and they're off to a good start, so it will be a big test for us. Florida we've seen this year and both games have been a little tight.
"We've got to continue to find a way to get some points and give ourselves a chance to be in position after the (Christmas) break."