After twice coming back from down a goal and seemingly having at least a point in hand, a return of the defensive breakdowns gifted Columbus two point blank chances, two goals and a win.
Far worse than the loss of the game was the loss of Dougie Hamilton to a broken leg. Details with schedule have yet to emerge, but it seems like the minimum is 8-12 weeks.
But as I said on Twitter this afternoon, injuries are the norm in the NHL and good teams find a way to overcome. Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets have been literal MASH units this year with both quantity and key player injuries. Yet the Penguins sit in second place in the Metro and the Blue Jackets are right there with the Canes. Excuses count for nothing mid-April. Good teams find a way to overcome.
That starts tonight with the Hurricanes back on home ice and really needing a win after an 0-2 start to the week.
The opponent is an Anaheim Ducks team that has entered the draft lottery race already but enters with a win in their last game over Nashville that is a reminder that outcomes are decided on the ice not by looking at the standings.
On the Canes side, this game is about finding a way to get back in the win column and simultaneously take a first positive step forward without Dougie Hamilton.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Anaheim Ducks
1) The blue line
Minus Dougie Hamilton, best bet is that Brind’Amour balances things with Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin each anchoring a pairing. There is just too much to try to hide even on home ice by instead going top-heavy with Slavin/Pesce reunited. If this proves true, the spotlight is on the two partners. Jake Gardiner has been better of late but did have an ‘oops’ on one of the two third period break downs on Thursday. Joel Edmundson played a ton and had a number of good plays but also has a tendency to get lost in the neutral zone at times leaving his partner alone against multiples. Regardless of what Brind’Amour tries for pairings for iteration #1 of a blue line without Hamilton, the blue line just became an every-game watch point.
Even before the Hamilton injury, the Hurricanes were an up and down team trying to find a rhythm and consistency to rise up above the growing fray at the playoff cut line. Jordan Staal scored a huge goal on Thursday to tie the game in the third period, but it was wasted. Sebastian Aho moved to wing for the first time this season. He continues to buzz but not be incredibly productive from it, but also featured prominently in one of the two third period goals against with a turnover and then lackadaisical effort defending the puck at the other end.
It is time for a player or two or three to step up and lead the way. I will be watching to see who that might be.
Goaltending has been feast or famine lately. Book-ending back-to-back shutouts over the weekend are really tough outings by both goalies. Best guess is that James Reimer starts and tries to build on his impressive shutout last Saturday. Regardless, I will be watching to see which caliber of netminding is there on Friday.
The puck drops at 7:37pm at PNC Arena.