Arguably the only positive after a demoralizing home loss on Friday is the fact that the Hurricanes immediately get a chance to get the bad taste out of their mouths with a game on Saturday night in Detroit.
The Hurricanes situation right now offers widely different viewpoints. On the one hand, the team is still only a single point out of a playoff spot which suggests they are right in the thick of things. On the other hand, the current trajectory including a four-game losing streak makes the playoffs seem far out of reach.
One can talk about improving the team, its problems, the trade deadline and any number of other things, but at the most basic level, the team desperately needs to get a single win right now.
Saturday offers a chance to do that but with challenges. The Red Wings are on the outside looking in on the playoff chase which suggests that they are a beatable opponent. But on the flip side, the last time the Hurricanes played the Red Wings in the second half of a back-to-back when the Red Wings were rested, the Wings skated circles around the Canes in a dominant win.
But regardless of circumstances, the Hurricanes desperately need to find a way to notch a win and then go from there.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Detroit Red Wings
1) Determination and hunger? Or self doubt and tentativeness?
I cannot imagine that the psyche for the Hurricanes players is a positive one right now. The question is whether they can use that for extra motivation or if instead any self doubt leads to timid play. At a couple of the lowest points of the 2017-18 season, the Hurricanes have to their credit pushed back and rebounded. On Saturday, I will be watching to see if they can muster the same.
2) Skating legs
With four days off, the Hurricanes lack of effort in the second half of the Penguins game was not a result of fatigue or physical limitations. But on Saturday, that could actually come into play. As noted above, the Red Wings are fast on the wings and can play an attacking style when they get their wheels going. In the previous match up that similarly saw a rested Detroit team play a Carolina team that played the night before, the Wings were dominantly faster. On Saturday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can match pace.
3) Jordan Staal?
After missing Friday’s game to be with his wife for the birth of their child, it is unclear whether he will be available Saturday. The Hurricanes really are a different team without him. For whatever he might lack in terms of raw scoring ability, he is incredibly good at winning pucks in the defensive zone and getting the puck, often single-handedly, to the offensive zone. That takes the pressure of the defense and helps balance where the play occurs. Without him in the lineup on Friday, the Hurricanes had significant stretches during which they were under constant siege.
4) Find a way
We have very much reached that point in the season when results trump all else. It really comes down to win or loss at this point for the Hurricanes. Any kind of win is a good one. Any kind of loss is a problem.
The puck drops at 7pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John and Tripp (and I think Mike still out with what is just a minor illness that has him on the mend for early next week).