After a solid 1-0-1 start in two home games, on Saturday the Hurricanes will begin their annual North Carolina State Fair road trip. At only four games, the trip looks much less ominous this time around.
The opponent is a familiar foe in former Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. The match up is also one against a similar team that has been on the outside looking in recently but has young talent that could boost future fortunes.
As always, I recommend Michael Smith’s game day article at CarolinaHurricanes.com which should have line combinations and defense pairings from the morning skate and much more.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Winnipeg Jets
1) The blue line
As I have written about many times, I consider the blue line to be one of the most significant Achilles’ heels for the 2016-17 Hurricanes especially on the road. The defense was a focal point in my article entitled “Readying for the road” from earlier this week.
For the defense, the 2017-18 season has been split so far. The team struggled significantly on defense with too many big ‘oopses’ in game one but rebounded and played much better in game two.
The Hurricanes blue line will need to be solid and steady across all three pairings on the road. Best guess is that Coach Bill Peters will start with Slavin/Pesce, Hanifin/Faulk and Fleury/Dahlbeck, but if the game is close I think Peters will mix and match some to get his top defensemen more minutes and into more of the critical situations.
2) Bill Peters’ tinkering
Per my Daily Cup of Joe from Friday, I am on record as thinking that Sebastian Aho’s playmaking ability is being underutilized with his current line mates. Best guess is that Peters will open Saturday’s game with forward lines pretty similar to what he has used in the first two games. But past history also suggests that Peters is not shy about shuffling things up if the offense is sputtering early.
As the simpler of two options, I like trying Aho with Victor Rask and Justin Williams, but more generally, I will be watching on this road trip to get an early read on where Peters’ head is at in terms of what he tries when he starts shuffling.
3) The power play
The power play has looked stagnant and mostly been unproductive through two games. Especially on the road, being plus one in the special teams battle is worth a point or two. With three days between games, I will be watching to see what power play coach Rod Brind’Amour has cooked up and more significantly if it garners results.
What do you expect for the first road game?
1) Will the blue line pass its first road test?
2) Especially if things start slowly, how aggressive will Peters be in terms of line shuffling?
3) What else do you foresee for the first road game?
The puck drops just after 7pm Eastern Time on Fox Sports Carolinas with the first chance for attendees of home games to see John, Tripp and Mike calling a Hurricanes game on television in 2017-18.