After a rough second period led to a 3-2 loss to Anaheim on Thursday, the Hurricanes will try for the second time to capitalize on home ice. The situation is a bit familiar in that the opponent is 1 from the top tier of the NHL and is playing in Raleigh after playing and traveling the night before. The opponent is also another team from the category of skilled but also having the personnel to play a rugged, heavy game. The Hurricanes struggled mightily with the Ducks forcing the game to the walls on both ends of the rink and then winning physical battles for the puck.
In case you missed it, Friday offered a flurry of Hurricanes roster moves that I detailed in an article this morning. Today offered Matt Tennyson being recalled to replace Jakub Nakladal who successfully cleared waivers and will join the Charlotte Checkers today.
The morning skate should offer an early indication of what Bill Peters has in mind for line combinations with up to 3 new players added to the mix.
‘What I’m watching’ for Hurricanes versus Capitals tonight
1) New personnel
My hope is that Peters leaves Derek Ryan and Brock McGinn together to see if they can just keep doing what they have been doing in Charlotte at a higher level. Regardless of how the lineup shakes out, I will be watching to see if the new players can seize their opportunities and make a difference.
2) A spark for the rest of the lineup
In my article this morning, I wrote in some detail about the parallels between today’s moves and a roster shake up from Charlotte in early December of 2015 that sparked the team and led to a long 3-month run of playoff berth pace hockey. Those moves and the resulting spark happened after 25 games and proved to be too late. Here the Canes sit at game 14 needing to find a higher gear before it becomes too late again.
3) Jordan Staal’s line plus Slavin/Pesce
This group gets another tough assignment tonight with Ovechkin, Backstrom and company in town. Slavin/Pesce have generally proven capable of playing as a top D pair but at the same time have had a handful of break downs which is too many against the NHL’s elite who make you pay. Staal’s line will need to play like it did last winter. Slavin/Pesce will need to be sound and solid shift in and shift out.
4) Can the Canes muster more puck possession?
The Anaheim game was arguably a lesson in how to pull the Hurricanes into a game in which they have a big disadvantage. On the offensive side, the Ducks got pucks deep and forced the Canes defensemen to the wall where Anaheim won battles and forechecked pucks loose. Defensively, if the Ducks could not get on the forecheck soon enough, they backed up and stacked 5 between the center line and the defensive blue line forcing the Hurricanes to dump pucks and again lose battles on the wall. Can Peters and the team make a few adjustments or just simply move the puck better to keep possession of the puck? Or is it doomed to another game at a disadvantage in 1-on-1 puck battles?
The puck drops at 7pm at PNC Arena.