Quick heads up on holiday week schedule at Canes and Coffee:
–I might/might not get to watch part or all of Saturday’s Canes game live which means there might/might not be the usual recap. At a minimum, I will put up an article such that those who watch the game can chime in with their observations (which are my favorite thing the day after every Canes game).
–Tentative plan is to the resume regular Canes coverage including the Daily Cup of Joe on either Tuesday or Wednesday.
–I wish those who celebrate Christmas a blessed and special day, and I also wish those who not a joyous holiday season, enjoyable time with family and a Happy New Year!
With the Hurricanes North American road trip for December completed with a respectable 5-4 record in nine games with eight on the road, the team will now try to capitalize on home ice during the holiday week.
Round 1 of this game went badly during Thanksgiving week. The team played horribly in a 5-1 loss to the Rangers before Thanksgiving and had a second period implosion lead to a loss to the Maple Leafs after Thanksgiving. The team did salvage two points in a home win over the Predators on Sunday that week, but by that point, the week was already a negative in terms of point production and also leaving loyal Caniacs who attended all three games mostly disappointed.
The game against Buffalo is the first of three home games again during the holiday week with a Wednesday game against Montreal and a divisional game against Pittsburgh on Friday.
Against a Sabres team that continues to struggle and also plays on Friday, the game is the kind that the Hurricanes really need to seize.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Buffalo Sabres
1) Leveraging any physical advantage
When these two teams played only a week ago, the Hurricanes also caught the Sabres playing and traveling with the Hurricanes resting the night before. But the Hurricanes were still the less energetic team coming off the long western swing and playing their first game back in the eastern time zone.
This time around the Hurricanes will hopefully have the advantage, and as I always say…This kind of advantage is not to be granted but rather earned.
On Saturday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can push pace, attack and leverage whatever physical advantage they have to gain the upper hand.
2) Checking Jack Eichel
The last time these teams played the Hurricanes fell behind but then gained a 4-2 lead in the third period. The path from there to a coasting type win was rudely interrupted by a scoring outburst by young star Jack Eichel who had a hat trick and an assist to pull the Sabres even and push the game into overtime.
Playing at home this time, Coach Bill Peters will better be able to dictate the match up versus Eichel’s line. I would expect him to see a consistent dose of Slavin/Pesce (if they play together) and also Jordan Staal’s line.
On Saturday night, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes do in fact match up against Eichel and also how effectively this approach works at holding Eichel in check.
3) Cam Ward
I am on record as thinking that Cam Ward more than any other player right now has the ability to boost the team’s short-term situation. I will be shocked if Ward does not get his second consecutive start and with it become the team’s #1 goalie for the first time this season. He is playing well right now and should be fresh physically, but there is also a transition to be made mentally from being the #2 and fighting for more starts versus now being the #1.
On Saturday, I will be watching to see if Ward can start to string together a run of solid goaltending that the team desperately needs right now to also string together some wins and push up the standings.
4) Jeff Skinner and Sebastian Aho
Both players have been showing signs of readying for their next scoring burst. Aho just looks fast and dynamic right now, and Skinner has been buzzing in the past few games.
On Saturday, I will be watching in hopes that one or both so Skinner and/or Aho break out offensively.
The puck drops at 7pm at PNC Arena.