After another tough loss on Thursday, the Hurricanes are slated to play the second of three home games this week against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at PNC Arena.
For a team that has been pretty consistently sliding in the wrong direction over the past couple weeks, every game is a big one. Saturday’s game is even bigger because it is a four-point game against the team currently sitting in the final playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division. With a win, the Hurricanes gain a couple points and pull to within three points (adjusted for games played). With a loss, the Hurricanes slide back two more points and the gap widens to seven points.
As for the opponent, the Penguins stumbled out of the gate for the 2018-19 season but have since found a higher gear and a rhythm and have been steadily climbing up the standings. The Pens enter the game with a 7-2-1 mark in their previous ten games.
But this game is more about the Hurricanes looking internally and find a way to bounce off the floor that they are currently racing toward.
My watch points for Saturday’s game are here:
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Pittsburgh Penguins
1) The same start and more resiliency if it does not pay immediate dividends
The Hurricanes actually started strong in Thursday’s loss. but when they were not adequately rewarded, players started doing their own thing a bit and the level of play degraded. On Saturday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can bring the same solid start but equally significantly, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can stick to it if challenged with a bit of adversity.
During challenging times like these, a team’s ability to rebound is often dictated by the team leadership’s ability to right the ship and lead the way. The captains have a role in this, but I increasingly think that the next leg up for this team will occur when young players like Aho, Slavin and others rise up and take the team to the next level.
3) The top two lines
Against a Penguins team that goes Crosby/Malkin down the middle, the Hurricanes will need strong games from Aho’s and Staal’s lines. As the 2018-19 season wears on, I increasingly think the Hurricanes need to add another playmaking center to boost scoring, take some pressure off other scoring lines and just generally boost the offense. But back to the here and now and Saturday night, the Hurricanes will need strong games to from both Aho and Staal to stay together and have a strong chance to climb back into the win column.
The puck drops at about 7:07pm at PNC Arena.