If you were unable to attend Thursday’s game between NC State and UNC, I strongly encourage you to read my recap of the event and also make a mental note to attend if a similar event occurs next year. The night was an incredibly good showcase for local hockey and just plain fun to boot.
And if you missed in CandC’s flurry of coverage previewing NCSU vs. UNC yesterday, the next installment of CandC’s ‘Midterm’ series checking in on Canes prospects featured Janne Kuokkanen.
But getting back to the here and now, Friday’s Daily Cup of Joe will try to make a prioritized list of 6 things I would like to see the Hurricanes accomplish this weekend to boost my optimism that the Hurricanes are on the right track and can push up into the chase for the last Eastern Conference wild card slot.
1-A strong start by Cam Ward on Friday. He was fine in giving up only 1 goal in Tuesday’s win, but really was not tested enough to get a real read on his play coming out of the all-star break.
2-A strong game by Hainsey/Faulk on the road against the Islanders on Saturday. The Hurricanes have struggled mightily on the road with a 6-14-6 record, and the veteran defense pairing of Ron Hainsey and Justin Faulk have too often been right in the middle of the costly defensive breakdowns that have played a significant role.
3-A ‘good enough’ start by Eddie Lack on Saturday. The February schedule is actually friendly to just riding Ward, but March will require a second goalie. There are no guarantees, but my expectation is that Lack will get his first NHL start since early November on Saturday to provide an early read on if he can be a solid #2.
4-Ability to slow elite players McDavid on Friday and Tavares on Saturday. The Hurricanes’ winning formula last winter was to utilize a purpose-built Jordan Staal line to shut down opponents’ best lines. The current lineup is more balanced and has struggled to slow big lines including Tavares’ line in a recent high-scoring home win against the Isles. This weekend will present a big challenge and chance to see if the Hurricanes’ current lineup can match up against lines led by elite players.
5-Capability of generating offense on the power play. The power play has been sporadically better of late and produced 2 goals in Tuesday’s win. The Canes will need to find a clutch goal here and there with the man advantage down the stretch to tip losses into ties and ties into wins. Can the team build off of Tuesday’s effort with the man advantage?
6-3 points. As much as signs that the team is on the right track are meaningful, we have clearly reached that point in the season when results trump progress. Ideal would be 2 wins obviously, but at a minimum, I would like to see the Hurricanes collect 3 out 4 points.
What should be added to this list?
What do you see as the most important check points heading into a big weekend set?