After a solid 6-3 start that fizzled a bit with a 1-3 finish and then five days off to recharge and log some needed practice time, the Hurricanes are back on the ice in Columbus on Thursday night.
The game represents a chance to avenge a recent loss and also a first look at what, if any, effect a physical break and a couple days of practice have had.
Twelve days ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets came into the game against the Hurricanes off to a slow start at 1-3. The Jackets won that game and used that victory as a starting point for a 3-0-2 run. Such is the topsy-turvy NHL especially early in the season. Columbus has long been one of the toughest match ups for the Canes. One of the team’s strengths is its blue line and defensive structure that forces opponents to thoughtfully navigate the neutral zone usually requiring multiple passes. The result, especially on a sloppy night handling the puck, can be a disjointed effort offensively. In short, the game represents a tough test for a Hurricanes team that is looking to start the next stretch of schedule on the right foot.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Columbus Blue Jackets
1) Rust or rest
During the 2018-19 season, the Carolina Hurricanes struggled mightily whenever playing with more than two days of rest, so this game represents a test in that regard. Theoretically, the Canes should look rested and fast, but recent history would expect more of rusty and sloppy. Especially out of the gate, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can chart a new course in that regard for the 2019-20 season.
2) Petr Mrazek
With the team trying to find its way and sputtering a bit early in the 2018-19 season, Curtis McElhinney provided some amount of duct tape and glue to hold things together until the team could find a higher gear, which is ultimately did. After a fast start, the Hurricanes are maybe somewhat in that same place needing to find a way to piece together some standings production while at the same time trying to reach a higher level of play. Mrazek was phenomenal in doing exactly that in last Tuesday’s win in Los Angeles but looked like a deer in the headlights and an accomplice more than a victim in Friday’s loss to Anaheim. On Thursday, I will be watching to see if goaltending can be a net positive as the team tries to find the same.
3) The week’s work
I felt that the Hurricanes exited last week with plenty of things to work on in practice this week. In addition, the team still has a set of key players who have yet to really launch into the 2019-20 season. I wrote about that in some detail for today’s Daily Cup of Joe which you can find HERE.
The puck drops on Fox Sports Carolina at 7pm with John and Tripp. Mike Maniscalco is still on injured reserve, but the report earlier today from the team saying that his surgery today went well and that what was removed was non-cancerous is easily the best Canes hockey news of the day. Thoughts and prayers still out for a quick recovery and a return to our TVs soon.