The Hurricanes followed up a horrid loss on Saturday with a big road win on Tuesday. The 2-1 win was light on quality play except for goalie Curtis McElhinney who stole a win by saving 48 out of 49 shots faced. As such, the Hurricanes will be looking for the same result but a different formula on Friday against the Anaheim Ducks.
The game also features a bunch of roster updates. Haydn Fleury is now officially on injured reserve. Scott Darling and Valentin Zykov were both waived on Thursday. Clark Bishop was recalled. And Brett Pesce is practicing and seemingly close to a return.
As for the opponent, the Ducks struggled early in the season but have since rebounded. Anaheim comes in having won four out of their last five. The Ducks also figure to bring a heavy dose of heavy hockey. In recent years, their game has been to try to force the game to the walls, win physical battles for pucks and leverage that to play the puck back to the middle of the rink for scoring chances.
My usual set of watch points follow…
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Anaheim Ducks
1) Back to the future lineup-wise
Today the team announced that Micheal Ferland was out with a concussion. He joins Haydn Fleury who is also out with a concussion and also Brett Pesce is practicing regular and probably back soon but does not appear to be in the lineup tonight. Michael Smith from the Canes website details the expected lineup HERE.
The result is a lineup with more non-regulars and also a reversion to some 2017-18 combinations. Aho slides back to left wing, and he and Teravainen will flank Staal on a reunited TSA line. As I said on Twitter, I do not like this combination long-term, but minus Ferland and with a couple days off such that Brind’Amour could shorten the bench I actually like this move for Friday and short-term. In addition, the McGinn/Rask/Williams combination that also logged some good ice time in 2017-18 is reunited. Couple that with Martinook/Wallmark/Svechnikov that has been the team’s best line on many nights recently, and things are set for Brind’Amour to lean heavily on his top three lines.
I will be watching to see if the two new lines can re-find chemistry and catch a spark on Friday night.
2) Stay the course in net
With Darling being placed on waivers and seemingly making McElhinney a more permanent addition (he has been living in a hotel for two months since being claimed off waivers), things changed fairly significantly off the ice in the past few days. Critical is for McElhinney not to take a deep breath or change anything but rather to just stay the course and keep doing what he has been doing. That has been very good. So on Friday I will be watching McElhinney just looking/hoping for more of the same with no changes.
3) Willingness to engage physically
The Ducks are a team like the Blue Jackets that will try to push the game to the walls where they are big, strong and very good and winning grinding puck battles. From there, the idea is to filter the puck back to the middle of the rink for scoring chances. The Blue Jackets beat the Hurricanes handily with such a formula that is not the Hurricanes’ sweet spot. On the one hand, the Hurricanes must try to create transition points and skating lanes to play how they prefer. On the other hand, they must be willing to do the dirty work engaging physically and winning puck battles. Otherwise it could be a long night hemmed in the defensive zone.
The puck drops at 7:37pm at PNC Arena.