Tampa Bay, FL -- It's crunch time for the Carolina Hurricanes. Trailing 2-0 in the best-of-seven series, the team desperately needs a win in Game Three tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"Our game is fine," Carolina head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "We just can't change. We can't start opening up because the couple times we did, there was a rush chance against [us]...It is what it is; we know we need to go win a game there, and that's all we're focused on."
For the Canes to claw their way back into the series, a couple things will need to change. Getting the first goal of the game is one of them.
Carolina has given up the first goal in every game this postseason except for Game Two against Nashville. Meanwhile, Tampa has got the first goal in seven of their eight playoff games this year.
To get an early lead, the Canes will have to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy--and that won't be easy. The Russian has conceded one goal or fewer in three straight games and in four of his eight starts this postseason. Vasilevskiy was named a Vezina finalist earlier this week--his fourth straight nomination as the league's best goaltender. He's the first goalie since Martin Brodeur to be nominated in four consecutive seasons.
If it wasn't hard enough already, Carolina also needs to work around some ill-timed injuries.
Brind'Amour reported the Nino Niederreiter will not travel to Tampa Bay.
Meanwhile, Vincent Trocheck, injured in a Game Two collision with Warren Foegele, was assessed on Wednesday. His status for Game Three is uncertain.
Assuming Trocheck is unavailable, wholesale line changes are likely.
Expect Morgan Geekie to draw into the lineup on the fourth line. Martin Necas (drafted as a center) might be asked to center the Canes' third line.
Alternatively, Necas could jump to the first line and play as Aho's winger with Teuvo Teravainen on the other side. Brock McGinn could then join a heavy third line centered by Jordan Martinook with Jesper Fast on the other wing.
Without Trocheck, Staal should jump to the top powerplay unit, with Geekie joining the second unit for faceoffs and net-front work.
Powerplay Unit One: Aho, Staal, Teravainen, Necas, Hamilton
Powerplay Unit Two: Geekie, Fast, Svechnikov, Pesce, Bean
It would come as a surprise if Carolina made a change in net. Despite the tough Goodrow goal in Game One, Nedeljkovic has played well overall. Yet, if the Canes are going to make a change, you would think Game Three would be the time to do it. Nedeljkovic has played all eight postseason games so far. Like Game Three in Montreal in 2006, it might be time to roll the dice and give Mrazek a chance--even if he hasn't played in three weeks.
The Canes' expected lines:
Martin Necas — Sebastian Aho — Teuvo Teravainen
Andrei Svechnikov — Jordan Staal — Warren Foegele
Brock McGinn — Jordan Martinook — Jesper Fast
Cedric Paquette — Steven Lorentz — Morgan Geekie
Jaccob Slavin — Dougie Hamilton
Brady Skjei — Brett Pesce
Jake Bean — Jani Hakanpaa
Injuries: Nino Niederreiter (upper body), Vincent Trocheck (lower body)
Scratches: James Reimer, Max McCormick, Drew Shore, Joakim Ryan, Ronald McKeown, Maxim Lajoie, Jake Gardiner
Tampa Bay's expected lines:
Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn — Anthony Cirelli — Steven Stamkos
Barclay Goodrow — Yanni Gourde — Blake Coleman
Patrick Maroon — Tyler Johnson — Ross Colton
Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh — Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev — Luke Schenn
Injuries: Anders Nilsson (concussion), David Savard (upper body)
Scratches: Fredrik Claesson, Andreas Borgman, Mathieu Joseph, Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, Gemel Smith, Cal Foote, Ben Thomas, Alex Barre-Boulet, Mitchell Stephens, Daniel Walcott, Spencer Martin