IMPORTANT: Saturday’s game in Dallas is an odd 2pm start, so adjust your schedule or remember to set your DVR to catch up at the end of your Saturday.
Coming off a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the league-leading Washington Capitals on Tuesday, the Hurricanes will aim to rebound quickly and salvage a respectable 1-1 week before their 5-day lay off for the mandated NHL bye week. Very close in the rear view mirror, the Hurricanes have a painful example of how quickly losses can pile up. Now roughly in mid-February and still minus 2-4 points in the standings depending on what kind of math you use, another losing streak would likely spell the end of the 2016-17 season.
This game is right up there with the Flyers game coming out of the All-Star break in terms of being either ‘must win’ or at least very close. A win would put the Hurricanes at a solid 4-1 since the All-Star break and match the 4-2 mark that I targeted for this stretch back in mid-January. A win would also set the stage for a nicely-spaced 5-game home stand that follows the lay off and represents the best chance for the Hurricanes to climb a couple more steps to the playoff cut line.
The opponent is a team mired in disappointment in 2016-17. As a team expected by most to make the playoffs, the Dallas Stars current position in 12th out of 14 teams in the Western Conference is obviously disappointing. The Stars come into the game with 4 straight losses and at least on paper seem like a very beatbale team right now.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Dallas Stars
1) Jump and an attacking mentality
The Stars are sputtering right now defensively, in net and just in general. This is a game in which the Hurricanes need to skate and attack especially early to see if they can prey on weakness and run the Stars out of the game just like other teams have done recently. This is not a day for a slow start and a feeling out approach to the game.
2) Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask
The Aho/Staal/Lindholm line has been the teams best line lately playing pretty well defensively and sporadically scoring in bunches, but in terms of forward scoring the help beneath them has been light. Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask who will probably play together are riding 10 game streaks without scoring. Both players need to re-find a higher gear quickly before it is too late for the 2016-17 season.
3) That defense thing again
Saturday represents another road game and with it another try for the Hurricanes to solidify things in terms of defense and avoiding costly miscues away from home. If the team ultimately ends up on the outside looking in at the end of the season, the road record (currently 7-15-6) will be a leading cause and inability to play sound hockey will be its leading companion.
The puck drops at 2pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.