For the first time in the 2016-17, the Carolina Hurricanes will enter a game with a winning streak. The Hurricanes will be looking to claw back to .500 since they started the season 1-1-2. The game is also the fourth of 5 on the current home stand, and a win would push the team’s mark to a solid 3-1 heading into Sunday’s finale.
Off the ice, the game is the first in the “Hurricanes Homegrown Series” featuring local food, beer, music and art. Local food blog eatRaleigh offered a great read on the menu and series in general.
The Montreal Canadiens enter the game off to a red hot start at 13-2-2 and sitting atop the Eastern Conference with 28 points. Despite the strong resume thus far, the Habs actually enter on a slight down swing having lost 2 straight (1 in overtime) entering the match up with the Hurricanes. The other burning question is who the Hurricanes will see in net, as the game is the front half of a back-to-back with the second game being at home against Toronto. The question is an important one. Carey Price enters on Vezina pace with a 1.63 goals against average and scintillating .948 save percentage. Other than a horrendous 10-goal outing against Columbus, Montoya has been okay, but like the vast majority of NHL goalies just is not in the same category as Carey Price.
On the Hurricanes side, the team will very simply be looking to build upon consecutive strong outings against similarly strong teams.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Hurricanes versus Canadiens
1) More of the same at level 2
My preview for Tuesday’s game against San Jose placed an emphasis on solidifying the second level of combinations. Riding Jeff Skinner, the top line was off to a strong start scoring-wise, but in the early going Jordan Staal had been unable to rekindle magic with Joakim Nordstro and Andrej Nestrasil. And on defense, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce have risen up to become the team’s top defense pairing, but veterans Ron Hainsey and Justin Faulk were both off to slow starts defensively in my opinion.
Despite not scoring on Tuesday, Jordan Staal’s new line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen was tremendous in their second game together mustering a 2-minute shift of offensive zone time and a slew of shots on goal. Teravainen had 6 in the first period alone. And Justin Faulk and Ron Hainsey were paired together for Faulk’s return to the lineup and played the good version of quiet with sound defensive hockey that contributed to a 1-0 win without requiring goalie Cam Ward to stand on his head.
The play of these combination is critical to making the lineup deeper and giving Coach Bill Peters a larger core that he can lean on, so on Friday I will be watching and hoping for a continuation from Aho/Staal/Teravainen and Hainsey/Faulk.
2) Sound play
Except for a couple first period break downs defending the rush, the Hurricanes played a solid game defensively on Tuesday and gave Ward a reasonable quantity and quality of chances to handle. Against a Montreal team that has been scoring in bunches this season across multiple lines, Friday will require another sound effort defensively. I will be watching early to see if the Hurricanes can pick up where they left off on Tuesday.
One might argue that I should at least temporarily remove this from the required list based on Ward’s strong play of late. Going with the superstition thing, I will instead leave it here and hope that Cam Ward continues his strong play of late.
The puck drops at 7:30pm at PNC Arena.