Coming off of a solid road victory on Friday and now riding a two-game winning streak, the Hurricanes right back at it on Saturday at PNC Arena against the Chicago Blackhawks. The game represents one of the tough variety of back-to-backs in which one team played and traveled and the other team was waiting and resting. But excuses count for nothing, and every game is winnable despite occasional schedule disadvantages.
Some might figure that the Blackhawks were the tougher of the two opponents given their recent playoff success and name superstars. But because of style of play and recent results, I would argue that the Hurricanes already won the tougher of the two games when they beat Columbus on Friday. The Hurricanes are 3-1 against the Blackhawks in 2015-16 and 2016-17 and are comfortable with an open, skating type of game that flies up and down the ice.
So what wins out on Saturday night? Fatigue from playing and traveling the night before? Momentum from the two-game winning streak and recent success against the Blackhawks? Or…?
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes against the Chicago Blackhawks
1) Any physical advantage
The Hurricanes actually fared reasonably well in the second half of back-to-backs last season. And early in the 2017-18 and with a lighter than average schedule thus far, I would not expect the Hurricanes to be worn out. But the physical effects of playing a back-to-back and traveling can impact a game. As such, I will be watching early to see if the Hurricanes can find their skating legs and match Chicago in terms of pace, quickness and intensity level.
2) Familiar foes
Friday’s Daily Cup of Joe was a somewhat controversial article that covered the player pipeline that has run from Chicago to Raleigh both directly and indirectly. Saturday’s game represents the first against their former team for Scott Darling, Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk and also another round for Teuvo Teravainen, Joakim Nordstrom and Klas Dahlbeck (likely to be a healthy scratch). I will be watching to see how player react, especially Scott Darling who should be in net after Cam Ward started on Friday.
3) The offense
Not counting empty-netters, the Hurricanes have scraped out two goals in two consecutive games and converted it to a tight win. There is nothing at all wrong with an extended run of 2-1 wins, but ideally the Hurricanes still need to find a way to muster more offensively. If the Blackhawks are willing to open things up a bit and play a skating game, it could provide a more comfortable style of play for the Hurricanes and more scoring. Regardless, on Saturday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can find a higher gear offensively.
The puck drops at 7:07pm at PNC Arena for the season’s first game in the ‘Homegrown Series.’