The story of the second stop of the Canes quick 2-game western road trip is the homecoming of Eddie Lack to Vancouver where he was and still is loved by the fan base. Magically, the visit coincides with his birthday which was yesterday.
Past that fun story, the Canes are still playing hockey that matters in January which was not the case in early 2015. That is fun too.
As for the game, this game probably sets up as the easiest of the 4 in a challenging week schedule/travel-wise. Monday was the first game way out west after playing at home on Saturday night and traveling on Sunday. Friday features the reverse east coast game after traveling across North America the day before. And then there is a back-to-back second half on the road Saturday as the wrap up kicker. Wednesday’s game should physically feel like more of a regular road game.
The game also has a bunch of math to it. It is game 41 and the exact midpoint of the season. It also marks the Canes sixth try to climb back to break even for the first time after losing the opener back on October 8 and a chance to notch the first win of January after a solid December. (Note despite not winning the team is a break even 0-0-2 in January with both losses coming in overtime.)
Here is what I will be watching for Wednesday’s #CanesAfterDark match up that starts at 10pm Raleigh time:
1) Eddie Lack
These games can be strange. On the 1 hand, you hope that the positive vibe from the fan base and a small revenge factor against the team that traded him boosts his play and plays a part in a Canes win. On the other hand, he has been playing pretty well of late, so he really just needs to stay in his rhythm and not get bogged down trying to do too much or do something different.
The Canes have suffered a bit of a power outage of recently scoring only once in the past 2 games combined. This was not so much the variety where the team created a ton of chances and deserved better. Despite playing pretty solid 2-way and possessional hockey, the volume of top-tier scoring chances has been light. Again, it is only 2 games deep, but it is something to keep an eye on.
Timing would be tremendous for Eric Staal/Kris Versteeg or the 1-man Jeff Skinner show to surge and carry the offense for a couple games with the tough stretch of schedule. An ugly goal or 2 from depth players especially early in the game would also go a long way to finding enough offense even if it is slow going.
3) The kids on D
I will of course be watching the kids on D simply because it continues to be fun on a nightly basis. Nothing against Noah Hanifin or Brett Pesce, but in the rotation of great stories, Jaccob Slavin playing a ton of minutes in the top 4 is my favorite story going right now. I think how incredibly skilled he is with his hands and handling the puck is incredibly underappreciated right now. If you watch and appreciate how quickly and confidently he handles the puck regardless of good pass/bad pass, time or pressure already there, passing lane open/not, etc., it is really pretty incredible some the the things he does sometimes with incredibly small time and space and mostly makes it look routine.
The Canes could really use a win in this game to climb to plus 1 on the week and the month and to continue clawing their way up the standings.
Puck drops a little bit after 10pm Raleigh time with John, Tripp and Michelle on Fox Sports. Make coffee, stock adult beverages or do whatever it takes for a late-nighter slotted to end about 12:30am.