After a 3-day layoff, the Hurricanes take to the ice for a weekend back-to-back set playing first in Nashville on Saturday and then at home against New Jersey on Sunday.
Saturday’s game features the 2 bottom teams in the NHL right now with the Hurricanes at #30 and the Predators tied with a couple teams for the slot right above the Hurricanes. Both teams should be hungry for points and a chance to push up closer to the pack.
Here is ‘what I’m watching’ for the Hurricanes vs. Predators on Saturday night
1) Carry over from Cam Ward
Cam Ward’s struggles this season and controversy around the Hurricanes goalie position are well-chronicled, but the (legitimate) positive spin is that Ward was good in giving up only 1 goal in regulation on Tuesday and was even better the Friday before with an ‘iffier’ outing in the middle on Sunday. That makes 2 good starts out of 3. That is not enough, but at least potentially is a step in the right direction. Regardless of you want to spin the current trajectory positively or negatively the Hurricanes goalie play continues to be something to watch on a nightly basis.
2) Hanifin/Murphy, especially Murphy
I thought Ryan Murphy looked pretty good on Tuesday considering that he had been on the shelf for about a month before his season debut. His minutes were limited and his ice time a bit sheltered, but it was still a positive outing in the #6 slot next to Noah Hanifin that had not seen solid play of late. Can this duo build a comfort level together and in general and become an offensive catalyst?
3) Jordan Staal
Jordan Staal’s game has been building steam, as in steaming through the neutral zone with the puck on his stick just like last winter. Especially once the Hurricanes hit the next stretch of home games and Bill Peters and line Staal’s line up against the other team’s best, Staal’s ice-tilting puck possession game goes a long way to neutralizing opponents’ best scorers.
4) The group seeking a spark
This week I wrote about the Canes’ depth scoring issues hidden behind overall scoring success driven by too few players. I continue to watch for signs of scoring life from the group receiving top 9 minutes but not generating much 5-on-5 offensively. That group includes Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Teravainen, Joakim Nordstrom, Andrej Nestrasil and to some degree Sebastian Aho who is goal-less but has mounted a decent assist total of 5. Bill Peters did some line tinkering at practice on Thursday, but returned to the status quo on Friday. My guess is that he will start Saturday’s game with something close to the recent regular lineup but might be reasonably quick to make adjustments if the team is not generating scoring chances.
The puck drops a little bit after 8pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with Mike, Tripp and John.