After an eight-day break for the 2019 NHL All-Star Game and then the team’s bye week, the Hurricanes finally return to the ice on Friday at PNC Arena against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Before the break, the Hurricanes finished strong with a 2-0-1 road trip through Western Canada to close out a strong 8-3-1 January. To be playing games that matter in the final games of the 2018-19 season, the Hurricanes will need to continue that pace in February and March.
With no margin for error and a tough stretch of schedule ahead, the upcoming stretch of games is critical. That starts tonight with a match up against a Golden Knights team that started slow but have played their way up into a playoff spot.
The fact that both teams are coming off of long layoffs adds a wild card to the game tonight.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Vegas Golden Knights
1) Shaking off the rust
In a fair match up coming out of the break, both teams will be playing for the first time after eight days off. A key to the game could simply be which team is able to find its skating legs, pace and some amount of cohesiveness after the break. Especially early on, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes looks rested and fast or sluggish and sloppy after the break.
2) The ignition switches
In that vein, this game is very much a game for players like Brock McGinn, Jordan Martinook and others who play with an edge to dial things up early and hopefully energize the bench. Fresh off of welcoming a child into the word and signing a contract extension over the break, this task has been right up Martinook’s ally. I will be watching early for the players to lead the way in terms of immediately re-finding the intensity level.
3) Special teams
Las Vegas can be pretty stingy defensively. Could special teams scoring be the difference? I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can find the crispness on special teams after the layoff.
The puck drops at 7:30pm at PNC Arena.