Tonight at PNC Arena versus the Florida Panthers, the Canes take to the ice for a third try to bust into the win column. For today’s Daily Cup of Joe, I posted an article highlighting 5 Canes players who could be on the brink of busting out individually. You can read that HERE.
For the second game in a row, the Hurricanes get a scheduling favor playing a team that played the previous day and traveled. Though it did not yield winning results, the Canes did capitalize Saturday against Detroit looking like the faster and more assertive team by a huge margin through the first 2 periods.
It is too early to start using the desperate terms like ‘must win,’ but after a disappointing 2014-15 season that saw a 0-6-2 start pretty much doom the entire season before it even started, I do not think it is unreasonable to be a bit anxious to claw into the win column.
The biggest news heading into the game is the first start for Eddie Lack. He had a pretty good preseason but ultimately yielded the starting role to Cam Ward when Ward leveraged his incumbent status and layered on a great least start in preseason. But after having no answer in yielding 3 third period goals when the tide turned in the loss to the Red Wings on Saturday, the door is wide open for lack to make a statement and in the process win at least the next start in Detroit on Friday. First on my list in the “what it takes” part of my season preview was strong goaltending. It is a vital area for improvement if the Canes are to to play above their fighting weight and make a surprise push for the playoffs in 2015-16. That post can be found HERE.
So with that my, “what I’m watching” for Tuesday night is:
1) Eddie Lack. Can he be the answer? It is unfair to heap pressure on him and ask him to be a hero, but that might be just what it takes for the Canes to do better than the preseason predictions. He led a Vancouver Canucks team to the playoffs with a strong second half push last season, so here is hoping he can have a similar effect for the Canes.
2) Eric Staal/Kris Versteeg. I am on record as liking Eric Staal’s play through 2 games. I think he has been good behind the end line in the offensive zone and been better at going to the front of the net (and even been about 50/50 on avoiding his natural tendency to give up a screen to get to the side for a low-probability tip attempt). He gets another turn with probably the best skill/playmaker on the team in Kris Versteeg with Victor Rask in the middle of them. I think the formula is pretty simple. Rask needs to help drive possession and then drive the middle lane to the front of the net. If he does that it leaves a wing-to-wing passing lane behind him and also a bunch of open ice behind him for Eric Staal off the rush.
3) Jeff Skinner/Elias Lindholm. This round’s most interesting entry from the magic line combination black box has to be Elias Lindholm moving across to center. Couple it with Skinner on his wing, and you get 2 young players who have yet to reach the score sheet yoked together (at least for a game). As a third line holding a decent chunk of the Canes limited raw scoring potential and likely seeing some favorable match ups at home, this line must be a going concern on Tuesday.
4) I need a hero! In terms of individual players in Saturday’s loss, the story of the game was Henrik Zetterberg playing a fairly quiet game overall except rising up twice for plays that led directly to goals. The other start of the game was Petr Mrazek who helped the Wings exit a 2-period deluge of shots against down only 2-1 and just needing a strong third period to steal a win. On the flip side was Jordan Staal having a second rough game, and Cam Ward unable to hold the fort (3 goals against) in the third period when Detroit pushed back. The Canes need someone to step up and bury the losing streak before the hole and the pressure grow.
5) Chris Terry finds good situation. As a bonus, if it lasts the current set up could be huge for Chris Terry. His skill set leaving the AHL was that of a pretty heady offensive player with a fairly well-round tool bag that included a good 1-timer, decent hands around the net and some playmaking ability. But in the process of rounding out his game defensively, he seemed to leave most of the offense back in Charlotte. Skinner/Lindholm presents a real good situation for him to rise up offensively. Can he match their pace? If so, can he find chemistry and bring playmaking to help that line go?
Puck drops at about 7:07 at PNC Arena!