Before tonight's game, I exchanged some questions with Brian LeBlanc of Canes Country in order to give us a little flavour of the matchup. You can read my contribution here and without further ado, here is the Carolina perspective:
1. How has the signing of Alex Semin worked out so far for the Hurricanes? Was it a surprise to land such a notable UFA?
So far it's been fantastic, and it's been interesting to watch the rest of the team catch up to Semin's ability over the first seven games. He thinks the game at a higher level than anyone else on the team, and that led to a multitude of things like drop passes to no one and whiffed one-timers early in the season as everyone caught up. Eric Staal in particular has done so, and it's paid off for him with his best start to a season since 2007. He and Staal have been a perfect fit, mostly because Semin is much more of a playmaker than anyone gave him credit for and gives Staal ample opportunity to finish plays off.
It was a bit of a surprise to land him, if for no other reason that the Canes have never really opened their wallet for free agents and finally, after years of promising to do so, they put their money where their mouth is. What's going to be interesting is what they do after this season - fans are already clamoring for an extension, but with every point Semin's price for next year goes up. Will the Canes be willing to pay market value to keep him here, even if that's upwards of $9 million a year?
2. How about that Jordan Staal trade/contract too? How has the top six forwards situation shaken out?
Aside from the fact that he couldn't buy a goal if it were on sale for a few left over Canadian pennies, Jordan Staal has been everything the Canes expected: a significant offensive upgrade and a slight defensive one over Brandon Sutter. He and Jeff Skinner have established pretty good chemistry, and that twosome combines with the Eric Staal - Alex Semin duo to give the Canes two really potent scoring lines.
The third guys on those lines can change (and will tonight; Zac Dalpe, who had been playing LW on Jordan's line, was sent back to the AHL yesterday), but it's a matter of finding complementary players who will do the dirty work along the boards and allow the other two linemates to create plays. I commented the other night that it's very similar to how the BBC line played in 2002, which you probably remember well: Battaglia manned the boards and allowed Brind'Amour and Cole to do their thing. Surprisingly, the most effective guy in that role so far has been a guy we'll mention in the next question.
3. How are Jiri "NSFW" Tlusty and Jay Harrison doing? Will they score tonight for sure?
Oh absolutely. I have Harrison penned in for at least five Holy Mackinaws and Jiri Tlusty will likely threaten Darryl Sittler by the end of the night. Seriously though, Tlusty has been a perfect fit on Eric Staal's line. He doesn't have the stats to prove it, but his job is solely to give Staal and Semin room to work, and you can't argue with what they've done so far. We all sort of scratched our heads when Tlusty was given the top-line winger slot, but he's more than proven Kirk Muller correct so far.
As for Harrison, he is what he is: a borderline 2nd/3rd pairing defenseman who can play above his pay grade on a good day and won't give you Kaberle-ian brain farts too often. Harrison is likely the most dependable guy on the Canes' defense not named Justin Faulk for what he does: you're not going to count on him scoring, and it's a nice bonus when he does, but you also know that when he's out there he won't be chasing his tail around his own zone like some other Canes defensemen (cough, Corvo, McBain, cough) are apt to do.