All good things must come to an end, and the Hurricanes 5-game winning streak came to an end in Montreal on Thursday. The Canes could have been better, but by no stretch of the imagination was the game in the same category as some ugly losses from the first 2 weeks of the season. If you missed the game, you can find a recap and notes HERE.
Nonetheless, with the Hurricanes still on the outside looking in on the 8 teams currently in playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, it is important to cut losing streaks short and get back in the win column quickly.
The Hurricanes will have the opportunity to do that against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. Like the Canadiens, the Senators are another opponent that the Hurricanes have seen fairly recently. The Hurricanes beat the Senators 2-1 in a shootout to start off November.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Hurricanes versus the Senators on Saturday night
1) The leadership
This would be a great game for 1 of the team’s top players to hoist the team up on his back and carry him to a victory. The Canes have had this happen multiple times this season. Jeff Skinner has put forward a couple superhuman efforts to almost single-handedly lead his team to a win. Jordan Staal and his line has as well. Cam Ward has also been the difference in a few games that the Hurricanes did not deserve to win but did anyway. And Justin Faulk has been logging big minutes of late. With the goal of immediately pushing back into the win column after a loss, Saturday would be great timing for another such hero effort.
As of writing this on Friday night, I have not yet heard what Peters’ plan is for goaltending for the weekend. My expectation is that he will do the normal back-to-back thing and give each goalie a start which would of course mark Michael Leighton’s 2016-17 NHL debut. Either way, I think this is a big game. If Ward starts, it would be great to see him bounce right back into the win column. If Leighton starts, it might actually be more significant if he played, played well and won. Ward cannot do everything for the remainder of the season, so finding at least a temporary capable backup would be well-time with 2 more back-to-back sets on the way in the next 2 weeks.
3) Players rising up
A number of Hurricanes have been playing well of late obviously with the recent 5-game winning streak, but I think Justin Faulk and Elias Lindholm have made the biggest jumps from early season struggles to their level of play in recent games. I will be watching to see if both players can maintain their momentum and keep playing well.
4) Overdue third line
McGinn/Ryan have been part of a winning streak and have played reasonably well since being called up from Charlotte, but at some point the team needs to generate decent depth scoring from the third line. The duo, mostly with Stempniak at right wing, have created chances, so it is reasonable to hope that they are overdue to break out for a goal or 2. I will be watching to see if the scoring chances keep coming and also to see if they can convert.
The puck drops a little bit after 7pm on Fox Sports Carolinas.