After a magnificent 4-0-1 road trip that rewarded Canes fans for staying up late, the Canes return home on Saturday to face the Florida Panthers.
The game is a classic trap game. With only one day off and travel back from the western time zone, this type of game very often sees the home team struggle to find pace and crispness.
In addition to facing that battle, the Hurricanes will also match up against a good opponent in the Panthers. The Panthers sit right at the playoff cut line in an Atlantic Division race that has tightened up.
On the Canes side, this game is not about the opponent but rather just maintaining the current momentum and rhythm which are both strong.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Florida Panthers
As noted above, these first games home after a long road trip especially when out West are challenging. My first watch point will be to see if the Hurricanes look like they can find the pace out of the gate.
A recurring theme in the Hurricanes current winning trend has been strong goaltending two goalies deep. Especially if the Canes have trouble finding the pace, the goaltending will need to stand tall and hold the fort. As such, I will be watching to see if the Canes netminder is up to the task especially early and/or during lulls.
3) Best against best
The Panthers boast great top-end talent somewhat similarly to the road trip match ups. The story of the game last time around against the Panthers was a stellar effort by Jordan Staal and company marking the Panthers’ top players. On Saturday, the outcome could again hinge on whose best players are better in this game. Despite the scoring surge by Sebastian Aho of late, I think Foegele/Staal/Svechnikov can stake an equal claim to being the team’s best line of late. I will be watching to see if that two-headed monster can stay on track and best Florida’s top-end talent.
The puck drops at 7:07pm at PNC Arena in front of a full house.