Coming off a 5-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers that featured opportunistic scoring at a high rate and oftentimes just trying to survive a barrage of shots against otherwise, the Hurricanes will aim for two wins in row against the Calgary Flames on Thursday night. The game will feature another good test for the defense in the form of skilled forwards who attack with speed.
Michael Smith at CarolinaHurricanes.com continues to be a recommended game day stop with updates on the personnel stuff and other coverage common to a standard game preview.
I will jump right into ‘what I’m watching’…
1) Another test for the blue line
Past Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce who were lights out in Tuesday’s win, I thought the defense struggled a bit. Haydn Fleury had a handful of rookie mistakes such that Peters used the third pairing sparingly (7+ minute for Carrick and 11+ minutes for Fleury), and Hanifin/Faulk had a run of (mis)adventures in the third period. Worth noting is the fact that the Hurricanes in total played too much without the puck struggling in the face-off circle and generally losing the possession and therefore shots game. Shorter version is that the game was a tough one for the defense.
Per Michael Smith’s update from the morning skate, it looks like Trevor van Riemsdyk will return from injury which will hopefully solidify the third pairing. Couple that with more time playing with the puck, and I will be watching to see if the defense can tighten things up a bit.
2) More time with the puck…
Tuesday’s game was bizarre by my estimation in that the Hurricanes generally were outplayed in terms of territorial play and possession but used a perfect trio of Edmonton miscues, a backup goalie and opportunistic finishing to just intermittently score goals in between stretches of mostly chasing the puck.
On Thursday, I will be looking for the Hurricanes to get back to the puck possession game that is a growing part of the team’s core. It starts with improving on the meager 39 percent face-off percentage on Tuesday and continues with winning more battles and being able to move the puck from stick to stick instead of chucking it for chases and changes.
3) …But with same finishing
The single biggest factor in Tuesday’s win was the ability to generate (with Edmonton’s help) and finish grade A scoring chances. Teuvo Teravainen found himself with two good scoring chances early and finished both. Lindholm made mistake on the back door and Staal and Slavin finished grade A chances off the rush. Finishing has a magical way of trumping all else in terms of winning on the scoreboard which matters most. I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can continue Tuesday’s run of putting the puck in the net.
4) Lineup tinkering
The morning skate featured Brock McGinn on the right side of Jeff Skinner and Derek Ryan and Janne Kuokkanen on the right side of Joakim Nordstrom and Marcus Kruger.
It can be random guessing speculating on what will work, but here is where I think Peters’ logic lies.
Kuokkanen has looked decent with Skinner/Ryan, but I would not say that the trio has necessarily clicked. Only Skinner has scored at even strength, and I am not sure Kuokkanen’s tendency to play with and look to distribute the puck at times necessarily meshes with Skinner. McGinn brings a hard forechecker who can hopefully shake a few pucks loose and in the process create quick-hitting scoring chances.
The fourth line has put on some clinics in terms of getting the puck into the offensive zone and cycling it and maintaining control, but neither of Kruger or Nordstrom are really finishers, and I think the same could be said for Jooris and McGinn who have played on the right side of that line. So is it possible that Kuokkanen can bring an offensive element that helps convert puck possession into an occasional goal here and there?
The puck drops a few minutes after 9pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.