After a mostly ‘meh’, even ugly but somehow still exhilarating and productive weekend, the Hurricanes have arrived at the last game before what looks to be a much-needed break. The team garnered an OTL point on home ice against a struggling Anaheim team on Friday and followed up by grinding out a shootout win on Sunday to make for a product three out of four points despite a low volume of high-end hockey.
Tuesday represents a chance to put an exclamation point on the three-game home stand before a long layoff that seems to be incredibly well timed.
The Winnipeg Jets also enter the game desperate for points. The team sits below the playoff cut line by a couple points and has been sputtering of late with losses in four of their last four games including two straight losses by ugly 5-2 and 7-1 margins.
Will the Jets look desperate and defeated or hungry and determined? On the Hurricanes side, can they find one good game? Or if not, can they muster another ‘just find a way’, ugly win maybe led by goaltending?
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Winnipeg Jets
1) James Reimer
Recently, a regular theme in my game previews has been the need for a hero or two to step up, put the team on his/their back and help the team be productive even in a down stretch. James Reimer has been that timely hero. In his last three starts that coincided with the team seeming to hit a wall physically, he is 2-0-1. What is more impressive is that the team in front of him scored only one goal total in each of the three games not counting an empty-netter. Reimer allowed only two total regulation goals and one in overtime in the three-game run. Best bet is that Brind’Amour rides him for the third consecutive game. I will be watching to see if Reimer can again lead the way even if the team in front of him just does not have it.
2) Signs of life from the offense
Brind’Amour tried a bit line shuffling. Justin Williams was added. But the team is struggling a bit offensively right now. As the game is tightening up in the second half, the dynamic scoring that drove many of the wins in the first half of the season has been missing. Even in games when the Canes can dictate play and control possession, the game has looked too much like the Canes of old winning the shot battle but not really generating the types of chances that reach three or four goals. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes redial up the offense especially against a team that has allowed 12 goals over its last two games.
3) Aho’s line
In the same vein as #2, the Hurricanes must get more from its top line. Sebastian Aho has been pushing of late at least in fits and spurts. Readying for the stretch run and sitting right at the playoff cut line, this team will need Aho’s line to find a higher gear like it did for parts of the 2018-19 season. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if Sebastian Aho can find that higher gear and use it to help his line produce on the score sheet.
The puck drops at 7:07pm at PNC Arena.