Happy Martin Luther King day! If ever there was a time for our country to follow his lead in righting wrongs and doing so in a way that is peaceful and with a goal of making our country better and pulling everyone together, the time is now.
After a sluggish and sloppy 4-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday that left the Hurricanes with a 1-1 split to start the season, the Hurricanes are now set to play a quick back-to-back set in Nashville against the Predators.
Most significant will be just finding a higher gear. The Canes pace was ‘meh’ out of the gate in game 2, and the team’s ability to move the puck from stick to stick was much worse than that. The result was a sloppy game that saw the Canes completely lacking cohesiveness through two periods before an up and down third period that was still not great. Minus Jordan Staal on Saturday and with some tinkering as Brind’Amour tries to find combinations he likes, chemistry across lines possibly also played a role.
Seeing how the Hurricanes respond after their first bad outing of the 2020-21 season features heavily in my watch points for tonight’s game.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Nashville Predators
1) Jump and pace
Playing fast is not a remedy for all problems, but in general the Hurricanes are usually at their best when they are pushing pace both advancing the puck up the ice and also forechecking aggressively when without the puck. After a sluggish start on Saturday, I will be watching to see if the Canes can at least dial up the intensity and pace.
2) Combinations and chemistry
Niederreiter/Aho/Teravainen has been a regular line through two games. The trio was very good and could have easily scored more than one goal in game one but was not particularly good in game two. Past that, the lines have been shuffled regularly and not particularly effective. In general, Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour continues to show a preference for balance that has odd (in my opinion anyway) combinations of higher-end offensive players like Andrei Svechnikov with more defensively-leaning forwards like Jesper Fast and Jordan Martinook. I would expect more of the same tonight. Regardless of what the combinations are, I will be watching closely to see if Brind’Amour can find combinations that work on Monday night. Though there is an element of just needing to play better, I think finding a couple combinations that click could also be critical to finding the next leg up for the Hurricanes.
3) James Reimer
After consecutive starts by Petr Mrazek in Detroit, James Reimer should see his first game action for the 2020-21 season. With the odd circumstances and no preseason games, I will be watching to see if Reimer can hit the ground running from a cold start.
The puck drops at 8pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with Tripp, Mike, Abby and Shane.