The playoffs are no longer a possibility for Carolina, but Canes coach Kirk Muller said not to expect many changes in the final four games of the regular season.
Brian Boucher will start in net tonight against the New Jersey Devils, Muller said. But he said the lines and defensive pairs -- and players' roles -- will basically remain the same until the end of the season.
"There might be a little tweak here and there ... but I don't think you'll see too many changes in personnel or different roles," Muller said today.
The Canes' 4-3 overtime loss Friday to the Winnipeg Jets was the final blow to the Canes' playoff hopes. Carolina had a 3-1 lead in the second period and the Buffalo Sabres were losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins, just the scenario the Canes needed to stay alive and live to fight another day, but it all came undone with the OT loss.
The Canes (31-31-16) did not skate this morning, holding a team meeting. Most, but not all, of the Devils skated and Martin Brodeur is expected to be in net for New Jersey (44-28-6), sixth in the Eastern Conference with 94 points.
The Devils can clinch a playoff berth with one point tonight.
"It's a tough mental day after last night but we said let's finish on a good note, meaning now to the end of the season," Muller said. "Too many good things have happened. We're in the right direction.
"We preach accountability, so I guess the message is 'You're a pro and just be accountable to the guy beside you and play hard for the guy beside you.' Respect the fact we're in a position where we have to get better. The big picture is we have to get better for next year."
Muller has been in the same position, both as a player and assistant coach. When the playoffs are out, it's tough to have the same mental and physical drive.
"To be honest, it is hard," he said. "You push and everybody wants to be in the playoffs, that's what it's all about. Guys here, I keep saying it, they've emptied the tank. They've been pushing hard every night. They've been battling.
"At the end of the day, when it doesn't happen, it's deflating and it's tough mentally. But the way they get through it is to continue to be a professional. Do everything right. The easy thing is to play at 80 percent right now. What we want to see is guys play right to the end."
The Devils recently went through a tough patch, going 2-4-1 and twice being ripped by the Pittsburgh Penguins. But New Jersey has won its last two, beating the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 in a shootout and then topping Tampa Bay 6-4 on Thursday.
Boucher will be making his ninth appearance of the season. Sidelined three months after a groin tear in early December, he will be making only his second start since Dec. 3.