After a solid three-game winning streak, the Hurricanes hit a bump in the road on Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils. A tough night for Scott Darling in net and a ‘meh’ at best game from the skaters led to a 5-2 loss.
As I said in my recap for that game, the key this time of year is to bounce back quickly. The Hurricanes were not going to win out and a few clunkers are inevitable. But getting quickly back into the win column is important especially when the opponent is another playoff hopeful.
And that is what is on the slate for Friday. Both the Hurricanes and Islanders played and traveled last night, so today’s game shapes up as what I call a fair back-to-back. The game will also decide playoff position at least for now, as the Hurricanes are currently up only a single point on the Islanders. Adding to the excitement is the recent history of the two teams playing some wild high-scoring games.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the New York Islanders
1) Skating legs given the back-to-back
As noted above, the back-to-back is at least a fair one given that both teams played and traveled last night. But it still adds an element of uncertainty. Last weekend, the Canes played well in the second half of a back-to-back and swept the set. A week earlier, the Hurricanes were lackluster, slow, sluggish and everything else bad in losing the second half of a back-to-back to the Red Wings. So especially early and late in Friday’s game, I will be watching to see if either team has an advantage skating-wise.
After a tough night in net for Scott Darling on Thursday, the Hurricanes will go back to Cam Ward. Ward has had a handful of tough nights but has generally been solid. Especially if the team in front of him looks a bit sluggish, I will be watching to see if Ward looks sharp and can set a positive tone and hold the fort if necessary.
3) The same sources of offense
In recent wins, the Hurricanes have been very good on the power play and have benefited from a surge in blue line scoring. At forward, Sebastian Aho has continued his scoring ways, Jeff Skinner seems to be finding his and Brock McGinn has been clutch. I will be watching to see if these primary contributors can keep leading the way.
4) Broader offensive participation
Past the special teams, defensemen and three forwards, the Hurricanes have been light on offense across the other nine forwards. Other than Aho, Skinner and McGinn no other Canes forward has more than a single goal since the home stretch started nine games ago on January 30. At some point, the Hurricanes will need broader participation scoring-wise to keep winning.
The puck drops at 7:37pm at PNC Arena.