“You know I’m a dreamer.
But my heart’s of gold.
Tonight, tonight, I’m on my way…I’m on my way…HOME SWEET HOME!”
After a successful 7-game North Carolina State Fair road trip with a 4-3 record, the Carolina Hurricanes finally return to home ice at PNC Arena in tonight’s match up against the Colorado Avalanche. The game is what I call a fair back-to-back in that both teams played and traveled last night. After a sluggish 1-0 game in Colorado last week and with both teams playing the night before, the formula seems to be in place for a grinding affair. But then often when that is the case the hockey gods put out the exact opposite, so we will see.
The Canes enter the game with a 2-game winning streak and coming off the best win of the season in so many regards.
- Eddie Lack rebounded and played well in his first Canes win.
- Jordan Staal played a first star-worthy game and finally got the scoring monkey off his back with big assists on the tying and game-winning goals.
- Most significantly, the game was just a solid all-around team effort. Things did not come easy, but when faced with a 2-1 deficit in the third period, the Carolina Hurricanes mounted a tremendous push in the third period and got a win through sheer effort.
The Canes now finish a busy 4 games in 6 nights stretch with home tilts on Friday and Sunday. With a short-term focus on Friday, the Canes must follow up Thursday’s win with another on Friday. If they do not, they basically give back what they gained in the standings on Thursday. The game is a tricky one as a back-to-back and also as the first home game after a long road trip.
Here is what I am watching for Friday night against the Avalanche:
1) Cam Ward
I am not aware of a starter being officially announced for Friday, but I will be very surprised if Ward is not back in net. He is on a run of solid netminding even in a few games that he lost. With the potential for a leg-weary team in front of him, he could be asked to stand tall if things get a bit sloppy at times.
2) Leaders stepping up
Eric Staal and Jordan Staal are both coming off a solid game playing power hockey and should be feeling good after the win and with Jordan finally cracking the score board. I would not be surprised to see Coach Bill Peters unite them again and challenge them to go win a hockey game. Whether it is 1 or both of the Staals or someone else, this has the makings of a game where a couple players rising up could be the difference.
3) Justin Faulk
He had a rough outing in Thursday’s win. He just seemed to have nothing for legs or mobility. Without any adjustment to his game, he just seemed to be trying to do things that he physically could not last night – stepping up at the blue line to get beat wide, trying to skate with puck but losing it, etc. I wrote up his situation in more details HERE for DC0J.
The shorter version is:
- Hitting physical lulls during a long NHL season are inevitable.
- It will be interesting to see if he can rebound quickly or if it takes a bit more time (like next week’s lay off).
- He must learn to know what he can do and adjust/simplify his game to be effective for 20+ minutes even on nights when he does not have it physically.
The best case scenario, which is entirely possible, is that he is in a better place physically tonight and just bounces back. But if not, the key will be for Faulk to play a simpler, more efficient game with a bit less upside but still a bunch of solid hockey.
If he has his skating legs in the back-to-back, I really like Ryan Murphy for this game. After a buttoned down start to this season, he is getting comfortable and starting to play his game as a skating defenseman. With some players a bit sluggish after playing last night, there could be a bit more open ice to be had. How about Ryan Murphy for 3 assists on the way to a Canes win?