The Hurricanes successfully navigated their return after a layoff and in the process stretched their points streak to four games. With a five-game road trip to follow, Sunday represents an important chance to again capitalize on home ice.
The game features a quick rematch against a Calgary Flames team that beat the Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime just last week. In addition, the contest will mark the first return to Raleigh for Bill Peters, Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm and Derek Ryan since their departures over the summer. And on a simple quality of opponent level, the Flames enter with the best record in the Western Conference.
On the Hurricanes side, the aim is simple — Keep doing what they have been doing. The team had a strong January and put the right foot forward with a win in the first game of February. Against a strong opponent, the key is not to pause and exhale but rather to keep the pedal down.
The 2pm start will be the Hurricanes sixth afternoon game. The enters with a 3-2 record in matinees including wins in the last two in January.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Calgary Flames
1) Pace and aggressiveness early
The afternoon starts can be odd games with one or both teams struggling to get going early. In the last afternoon game, the Hurricanes started a bit sluggishly but seemed to catch a spark when Micheal Ferland dropped the gloves and won a fight. With a decent amount of 2018-19 experience in early games and playing a Pacific Time Zone team that has only been on the East Coast for a couple days, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can gain the upper hand early.
2) Curtis McElhinney
I have not seen word yet on the goalie, but with Alex Nedeljkovic back in Charlotte, I would expect to see Curtis McElhinney in net. If that occurs, it will be his first start since January 15. In total, McElhinney has been the team’s best goalie so far in 2018-19. With busy stretches of schedule ahead, the team will need McElhinney to get back up to speed quickly. So if does in fact start on Sunday, I will be watching see how close to top form McElhinney is after a long layoff.
Only about a month ago, the Hurricanes had a power play that was sputtering and seemingly nothing or offense past what Sebastian Aho could generate. Fast forward a month, and suddenly the team is getting contributions on the score sheet and otherwise from four forward lines and all three defense pairings. On Sunday, I will be watching to see if Brind’Amour can continue to get solid play across the entire roster.
The puck drops at 2pm at PNC Arena which is perfect timing for a Canes hockey and Super Bowl doubleheader.