Playing with house money after a big win in the first half of a back-to-back set on the road, the Hurricanes take on the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night in Winnipeg. In the process, the Canes will try to run their point streak to six straight to start the 2018-19 season.
The game is a challenging one in multiple regards. First, the Hurricanes will have a decent flight and need to clear customs on Saturday night before arriving in Winnipeg while the Jets were home resting on Saturday night. In addition, the opponent is a challenging one in a Jets team that brings a good amount of big and physical and is also considered a Cup contender by many.
But right now, I am not sure it matters that much to a Hurricanes team that is riding a good vibe and just finding a way every night.
Against that backdrop, here is ‘what I’m watching’ for the game on Sunday.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Winnipeg Jets
1) What’s left in the tank?
Given the hard-fought overtime game and the travel and the match up against a rested team, the Hurricanes at least on paper start from a physical disadvantage. That situation could also be exacerbated by the heavy minutes played by the Canes top forwards. Brind’Amour shortened the bench and leaned heavily on Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Staal and Justin Williams such that all four players were at or near high minute marks for the past two seasons. Couple that with a big and physical Jets team that will make the game into a physical battle if it can, the game looks challenging for the Hurricanes. Both early and late, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can muster the energy, pace and intensity that has been a hallmark of their success so far this season.
2) Special teams
The Hurricanes did score a key power play goal late to salvage a 1 for 9 night in Minnesota on Saturday, but special teams continues to be a problem early in the 2018-19 season. The Minnesota Wild capitalized to the tune of two goals in five tries, but when you also count another goal that came only seconds after a penalty expired, the Hurricanes were really a feeble two for five in killing off penalties. No doubt, this will be a focus point at practice when the Hurricanes return home, but hopefully they can find some answers before then. First, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can clean things up and take fewer ill-advised penalties on Sunday. Second, I will be watching to see how the team’s special teams play.
3) Help from the young and rested?
As noted above, Brind’Amour shortened the bench quite a bit on Saturday. As such, many of the younger players in the lineup might have a bit more in the tank on Sunday. For a team that just keeps finding different ways to win, could Sunday be a break out day for one of the young guns who have fresher legs?
Sunday will most certainly see a return to net for Petr Mrazek after consecutive starts by Curtis McElhinney. After a strong preseason, Mrazek has been ‘meh’ at best in two starts but does sport a 1-0-1 record. Could he rise to the challenge on a night when the team could probably use it and in the process get out of the starting gate for the regular season?
The puck drops just after 7pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.