After a brutal 8-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night in Raleigh, the Hurricanes will get right back on the horse on Saturday and face another best from the West in the Nashville Predators.
With a Columbus loss on Thursday and Montreal losses on both Thursday and Friday, the Hurricanes are actually holding their place in the playoff standings despite an 0-1-1 mark so far this week. But the magnitude of Saturday’s game is greater coming off the kind of loss that Friday’s was.
Unfortunately, the opponent is another tough one in the Nashville Predators who also are a potential Cup contender. The Predators are a solid hockey team with depth both at forward and on defense.
On the Hurricanes side, the team needs to quickly either tighten up significantly on defense or refind the forecheck that minimizes the volume of time playing defense. And after an 8-1 loss on Friday, the team might also need to fight off some demons and self-doubt issues early on to play their way into this game.
My watch points for the game follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Nashville Predators
1) Angry determination? Or passive self-doubt?
The key for the Hurricanes is mostly putting Friday’s debacle behind them and using whatever of it carries forward to put a bee in their bonnets for Saturday. If the Hurricanes spend half of a game fighting their way through self-doubt and look hesitant doing so, the game could be over when they arrive. Rod Brind’Amour, Justin Williams and the rest of the leadership has a bit of work to do to make sure each and every player shows up Saturday in the right mindset. Early on, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can channel a bit of frustration from Friday in a positive way into Saturday’s game.
2) Niederreiter/Aho/Williams rebound
They were utterly horrible on Friday and the primary victims of the Winnipeg Jets’ scoring binge. This trio has been the team’s best in so many games since Niederreiter’s arrival that it is fair to write Friday off as an anomaly. But especially this time of year, that is better accomplished by a strong rebound effort in the next game on Saturday. As such, I will be watching Aho’s line closely to see if they can get right back to playing great hockey on a nearly every game basis.
3) Petr Mrazek
With the triple threat of a back-to-back against a rested team, a tough opponent and the potential for lingering doubts after Friday’s loss, the Hurricanes might need Petr Mrazek to hold the fort here and there especially early to help the team play its way into the game. On Saturday, I will be watching to see if Mrazek is sharp and capable of being a difference-maker in a huge game.
4) Much better attention to detail defensively
As noted above, the best recipe for rebounding defensively is to play as little defense as possible. That would mean getting the forecheck going and tilting the ice into the offensive zone. But against a good Predators team that will certainly attack and/or counterattack, the Hurricanes will undoubtedly need to defend some. On Saturday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can quickly rebound defensively.
The stakes and drama are rising. The puck drops at 8pm on Fox Sports Carolinas.