‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm4 @Edm: Second try on the road against Connor McDavid and the Oilers

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm4 @Edm: Second try on the road against Connor McDavid and the Oilers

After losing the first road game of the year on Saturday in Winnipeg, the Hurricanes will take their second try at road hockey in Edmonton on Tuesday night against Connor McDavid and the Oilers. Bigger than the road loss on Saturday was that the game was the second in a row with minimal offense and only a single goal scored. Monday at Canes and Coffee was focused on trying to spark the offense before the run of low scoring and the losses that inevitably come with it continued. Monday’s Daily Cup of Joe looked at four levels of options to try to boost the offense, and the Monday Coffee Shop featured reader polls and great discussion on the same topic. And apparently Coach Bill Peters awoke Monday morning in Edmonton with similar thoughts on his mind, as Michael Smith reported in from practice that lineup changes seem to be in process for Tuesday’s game. Michael Smith’s game day article at CarolinaHurricanes.com will likely have more concrete lineup information by late afternoon following the Pacific time zone morning skate. Based on what we've seen in practice, it looks as if Martin Necas, Josh Jooris and Trevor Carrick will all be in the #Canes lineup tomorrow. — Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) October 16, 2017 UPDATED (NEW COMMENTS IN ITALICS/CAPS) AT 3:30PM ET BASED ON LINEUP INFORMATION. Against that backdrop, here is ‘what I’m watching’ for Tuesday’s match up against the Edmonton Oilers.   1) A noticeable desire to play hockey in front of the net in the offensive zone One of the things that stood out in the two flat efforts offensively...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm3 @Wpg: First road test sees Mo as the foe

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm3 @Wpg: First road test sees Mo as the foe

After a solid 1-0-1 start in two home games, on Saturday the Hurricanes will begin their annual North Carolina State Fair road trip. At only four games, the trip looks much less ominous this time around. The opponent is a familiar foe in former Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. The match up is also one against a similar team that has been on the outside looking in recently but has young talent that could boost future fortunes. As always, I recommend Michael Smith’s game day article at CarolinaHurricanes.com which should have line combinations and defense pairings from the morning skate and much more.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Winnipeg Jets 1) The blue line As I have written about many times, I consider the blue line to be one of the most significant Achilles’ heels for the 2016-17 Hurricanes especially on the road. The defense was a focal point in my article entitled “Readying for the road” from earlier this week. For the defense, the 2017-18 season has been split so far. The team struggled significantly on defense with too many big ‘oopses’ in game one but rebounded and played much better in game two. The Hurricanes blue line will need to be solid and steady across all three pairings on the road. Best guess is that Coach Bill Peters will start with Slavin/Pesce, Hanifin/Faulk and Fleury/Dahlbeck, but if the game is close I think Peters will mix and match some to get his top defensemen more minutes and into more of the critical situations.   2) Bill Peters’ tinkering Per my Daily Cup of...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm2 Vs. Clu: First division battle comes in game two for Canes

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm2 Vs. Clu: First division battle comes in game two for Canes

One of the challenges that the Hurricanes must face in pushing up into the playoffs for the 2017-18 NHL season is the fact that the team plays in what is thought to be the best division in the NHL right now. To make the playoffs, the Hurricanes will need to finish ahead of at least three of the eight teams in the Metropolitan Division. Winning head to head in four-point games is the surest path to climbing above enough division rivals, and Tuesday represents the first of those four-point games against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Michael Smith’s game day at CarolinaHurricanes.com is a great game day stop if you want to know the expected line combinations and defense pairings based on the morning skate before you arrive at PNC Arena (or settle down in front of your television) tonight.   What I’m watching for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Columbus Blue Jackets 1) The defense on many levels Despite the win on Saturday, I would give the blue line a C- for Saturday’s effort. The group gets credit for chipping in a big goal by Noah Hanifin and for doing a decent job of moving the puck at times. But the volume of ‘big oops’ level defensive breakdowns that led to uncontested scoring chances and pretty directly to three of Minnesota’s four goals were too many. Noah Hanifin: His game was night and day playing offense and defending (see detailed notes from Saturday’s game). He had a strong game playing offense and with the  puck on his stick. He had a really tough time defending in the neutral zone and...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm1 Vs. Min: Canes aim to start on time versus Wild

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm1 Vs. Min: Canes aim to start on time versus Wild

It’s time. Just win baby. About this time last year, the Hurricanes shot out of the game in their 2016-17 season opener and built a 4-1 lead through two periods only to see the game end with a disheartening 5-4 loss in overtime. The loss extended a run of opening game losses that stretched back to a schedule oddity in 2010-11 that saw the Hurricanes play and win their first two games in Finland. If you want a season-opening win in North America then one has to go all the way back to the 2008-09 season which is a full two years before the arrival of Jeff Skinner. Cam Ward and Justin Williams are the only two Hurricanes players who played for the Hurricanes that season, and the fact that Justin Williams has played for two other teams and been away for almost a decade since then tells you just how long the drought is. The 2017-18 season is about changing the trajectory and reaching the playoffs. Say what you will before or afterward and win or lose about it being only one game, but Saturday’s home opener marks an opportunity change the trajectory and diverge from the recent losing history. For the game day details, I highly recommend Michael Smith’s preview at CarolinaHurricanes.com where he details the lineup and other specifics. Per usual, my preview will jump straight into a handful of items that I will be watching closely for Saturday’s game.   ‘What I’m watching’ My what I’m watching focus hones in on a handful of players who were trending in the right direction at the end...
Preseason Gm7 Vs. Was: ‘What I’m watching’ – Last chance to stake a claim

Preseason Gm7 Vs. Was: ‘What I’m watching’ – Last chance to stake a claim

How time flies once hockey returns. It seems like yesterday that the Caniac Carnival marked day 3 of training camp and a bunch of preseason evaluation points were on the way. Suddenly today is the last preseason game before a full week of practice to prepare for the regular season opener at PNC Arena on Saturday, October 7. This last game will feature a mix of sure NHLers trying to round into form, Coach Bill Peters still tinkering with line combinations a bit and a last chance for some of the young players to stake a claim to an NHL roster spot before the last buses leave Raleigh for the start of the 2017-18 in other destinations.   ‘What I’m watching’   1) Last chance to stake a claim to a roster spot Janne Kuokkanen He entered training camp as my favorite dark horse rookie capable of stealing an NHL roster slot. In early August, I went so far as to ask if his progression could be similar to Sebastian Aho’s. I thought he could play at his natural center slot and possibly push Derek Ryan for an offense-leaning third center slot. Ryan has been lights out in training camp at least for now has solidified his place in the lineup, but with Lee Stempniak on the shelf with an injury, there is an opening at wing. Enter Janne Kuokkanen. He had a strong second half of the game on Monday and showed scored on the power play (goal scoring is still a need). Tonight Kuokkanen will see ice time on the left side of Victor Rask and Justin...
Preseason Gm6 @Edm: ‘What I’m watching’

Preseason Gm6 @Edm: ‘What I’m watching’

The game is technically a preseason home game for the Hurricanes, but one would not know it from the location. The Hurricanes will take to the ice at 9pm Eastern Time in a rematch against the Edmonton Oilers in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for preseason game six of seven.   The lineup Courtesy of Michael Smith at CarolinaHurricanes.com whose game day is is a must-read on Hurricanes game days, the expected lineup is. Skinner-Ryan-Necas Aho-Rask-Lindholm McGinn-Kruger-Jooris Di Giuseppe-Roy-Zykov Fleury-van Riemsdyk Bean-Dahlbeck Carrick-Chelios Ward   ‘What I’m watching’ 1) Martin Necas at wing After practicing there at least once earlier in the week, rookie Martin Necas will make his debut at right wing with Jeff Skinner and Derek Ryan. Playing a game in this slot is incredibly significant since it happens to be the one slot in the Hurricanes top 9 that is actually open right now with Lee Stempniak out with an injury. Despite showing flashes of brilliance and making passing plays greater than his point total, Necas is limited to a single power play assist on the score sheet thus far through five games. If he has a huge three-point game waiting to burst out, tonight would be the night to spend it. This line in general will be interesting to watch in terms of chemistry and function. Jeff Skinner is an elite NHL offensive talent but not not necessarily the easiest for a scorer to play with because of Skinner’s propensity to play with the puck on his stick. And Derek Ryan is somewhat of a textbook playmaking center who also has puck skills. Enter Necas whose natural skill...