Hurricanes-Flames Preview


The Carolina Hurricanes had to be feeling a bit confident with a win over one of the best teams in the Western Conference prior to embarking on a four-game trip against the conference.

The Hurricanes, however, have dropped the first two on the swing and will try to end a four-game losing streak in Calgary on Thursday night when they take on the Flames, who dismissed general manager Paul Feaster earlier in the day.

Carolina (13-13-6) had been 3-6-7 against the West before a 5-3 win over San Jose last Thursday, but the Hurricanes followed that with losses at Vancouver and Edmonton.

They haven't faced the Flames since Dec. 6, 2011, and the two last met in Calgary in January of that year. Since moving to Carolina prior to the 1997-98 season, the Hurricanes have gone 2-5-1 there.

Carolina rallied Tuesday, scoring three consecutive goals to push the Oilers into overtime before a penalty cost them in the extra session. Justin Faulk was sent to the box for boarding 19 seconds into OT, and Jordan Eberle scored the winner 89 seconds later.

"We're a pretty resilient team," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "We have to look at the positives, we got a point. We got outplayed in the first, and came back in the second. We had a really good second and third. We got a really big point and possibly could have had two."

The team has lost only once in regulation this season when it allows two or fewer goals, but is just 3-12-5 when opponents score three or more. Offense has been an issue this season for Carolina, which ranks near the bottom of the league with 74 goals.

Getting Alexander Semin back should provide a boost. The Hurricanes activated the winger Thursday and he's expected to play for the first time since suffering a concussion Nov. 16 at St. Louis.

At the time of his injury, he shared the team lead with six assists and was tied for second with nine points.

Fellow winger Jeff Skinner continued his strong play Tuesday. After being named the NHL's first star of the week Monday, Skinner had a goal and assist in Edmonton.

He should have a good chance to keep it going against Calgary (11-15-4), one of the worst defensive teams in the conference with 100 goals allowed. However, the Flames have been better in their own end lately, surrendering eight goals in the past five games.

Karri Ramo, who started in goal for the first three games of that streak but gave way to Reto Berra in the last two, will likely start against Carolina.

"We have two goalies that can give us good minutes," coach Bob Hartley told the team's official web site. "On top of playing those guys to allow us to win, I'm trying to find out if the two of them can carry the load as No. 1 goalies in the NHL or if one of them is a better No. 1 and the best way to know this is to put them in key situations."

Calgary had won three of four prior to a 2-1 home loss to Boston on Tuesday. Berra stopped 22 shots for the Flames.

That proved to be the final game of Feaster's tenure. Calgary did not make the playoffs under Feaster, who became acting GM midway through the 2010-11 season.

Brian Burke, the team's president of hockey operations, will serve as acting general manager. He said the moves were needed to get the franchise back on track toward a championship.

''I wouldn't have come (to Calgary) if that wasn't the ultimate goal,'' he said. ''I have to look at the steps that have been taken and figure out what's the best way for us to get on that path. And I reached the conclusion that we needed to make this change.''

The Flames will likely see the return of T.J. Galiardi, who has been out since Nov. 20 because of back spasms. Galiardi has just one goal and five assists on the season, but his presence gives the team some much-needed depth, especially with two of its top scorers - Sean Monahan (foot) and Curtis Glencross (knee) - out with injuries.

"I just was able to get myself back healthy and fresh and press the reset button and now I'm ready," Galiardi said.

After this contest, the Flames will leave on a five-game trip against East opponents, while the Hurricanes close their swing in Phoenix on Saturday.