On December 14, I wrote a post entitled “Setting Carolina Hurricanes goals’ goals for the next month.” The article broke down the next month of the NHL season into 3 chunks and set targets points-wise to keep the Hurricanes moving up the standings and into the playoff chase. The Hurricanes met the targets (adjusted for the Red Wings cancellation) for the first 2 chunks. I said that the team needed to go 3-1 in the 4-game home stand at the beginning. The team went 2-0-1 with a postponement. I then said that the team needed to go 3-2 in the next tough stretch of 3 of 5 on the road and the top-tier competition. The Hurricanes did exactly that.
That sets the stage for the final and arguably most important third chunk of games. Starting with Tuesday’s home match up against the New Jersey Devils, the Hurricanes play 5 of the next 7 games at home. In my December 14 article, I set a challenging 5-2 goal for this 7-game stretch. Based on the Hurricanes 10-0-1 domination at home recently it seems possible. Tuesday’s game is the all-important first game of the set. Games 2 and 3 of the set are a tough back-to-back in St. Louis followed by Chicago making a good start even more important.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the New Jersey Devils
1) Return to a skating and attacking brand of hockey
Wednesday and Friday match ups against elite teams last week saw the Canes skate and attack for a full 60 minutes. The Hurricanes did yield some chances and had some issues with attention to detail defensively, but at the same time they matched good opponents in terms of playing fast and generating chances. The result was a game that the team probably should have won but did not against the Penguins and a win against the Blackhawks. On Saturday in Tampa in the second half of a back-to-back, the Canes did not have hte same hop. Back on home ice and with 2 days rest, I will be watching from the opening face-off to see if the Canes can return to the fast, attacking brand of hockey from the front part of last week.
The latest version of the TSA line has recently staked a solid claim to being the Hurricanes’ best line. The trio has been generating offense in bunches of late with a consistent formula of Teravainen and Aho navigating the neutral to gain the offensive zone with possession then finding each other in space with heady veteran Stempniak driving the front of the net to cash in on rebound chances. The line is worth watching simply because it is flat out fun with the level of skill but also because it has been a leader for the offense of late.
3) Predators’ mentality
The New Jersey Devils represent a beatable opponent with a home ice advantage to boot. New Jersey is below the Hurricanes at 15-16-7 and is limping a bit right now with a 3-9-1 record in their last 13 games. If the Hurricanes are to push up in the standings, they need to have an attacking mentality in games like this and aggressively seize wins.
The puck drops a little bit after 7pm at PNC Arena.