The lead in for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Buffalo Sabres tonight
After losing a 3-2 lead in the third period and then losing in overtime last night against the Capitals, the Hurricanes will be right back at it again on Saturday night at PNC Arena. The game is a rare back-to-back where the Canes theoretically have a physical advantage because they will be playing both games at home with no travel where the opponent in the second game, the Buffalo Sabres, had to play and travel last night.
Saturday’s match up is 1 of games that pushes a short stretch of games off the fence into either the positive or negative category. With a win the Hurricanes will have picked up 3 out of 4 points for the weekend. Though not perfect obviously, that is a pretty good pace. It would also push the Canes to 2-0-1 with 1 game remaining in the current home stand. Earlier this week when breaking down the month ahead, I said that Hurricanes needed to go 3-1 for this first set of 4 games. 2-0-1 would make it possible to meet or even beat that in Monday’s finale. With a loss, the Hurricanes will collect only 1 out of 4 points this weekend and will have trudged another 3 games deeper into the season and burned 3 games in the process without pushing above .500 for either the stretch of 3 games or the season in total.
The entirety of the Metropolitan Division teams currently in playoff spots currently sport winning streaks and a significant lead points-wise over the Hurricanes which makes it even more critical that the Hurricanes win at home and push up closer to the pack.
‘What I’m watching’ preview
1) A better second period
In consecutive home games, the Hurricanes have had okay but not great starts but still managed to emerge from the first period with leads in both games. What followed on Tuesday was a second period that had a ‘horrendous rating’ that rivaled anything seen during the third period road debacles seen this season. Fortunately, the collapse came early and left time and set the stage for a miraculous third period win. On Friday against the Capitals, the ‘horrendous rating’ was not nearly as bad, but the second period was characterized by looser play, more miscues and some coverage break downs. On Saturday night, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes have any kind of physical advantage over the Sabres early and also if the good guys can muster a better middle stanza after both teams settle into the game.
2) Derek Ryan with Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask
Right now, amidst a bunch of scoring of late, one could make a strong claim that Derek Ryan has been the team’s best offensive player in the past few games. I would not deny Skinner or Faulk’s claim either, but Ryan definitely deserves consideration. In the past 2 games, Ryan has 3 assists all of the smart and pretty passing play variety. Now through 2 games at right wing next to the Skinner/Rask combination, Ryan has provided a playmaking element that complements Rask’s smart positional play and finishing ability and Jeff Skinner simply needing to get the puck on his stick in places where goals happen to produce. Saturday night, I will be watching to see if Ryan can continue his offensive run and further solidify his spot on the Hurricanes’ top scoring line.
3) Continuation from Faulk
Justin Faulk has been good in consecutive games at home and has rekindled the offensive part of his game to the tune of 2 goals and 2 assists. With Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce settling in nicely as a top 4 pairing, I continue to think that Justin Faulk finding a higher gear and leading the other top pairing (especially on the road) is critical to the Hurricanes becoming more consistently defensively and picking up more points in the process. Saturday’s game represents a chance for Faulk to take another positive step forward hopefully on the path to doing the same when the Canes take back to the road.
The puck drops a little bit after 7pm at PNC Arena.