With a strong win on Saturday night against the Predators, the Hurricanes wrapped up a successful stretch of home-heavy schedule. In the past 6 games with 5 at home, the Hurricanes logged an impressive 4-0-2 record. The stretch also raised the Hurricanes home record to a solid 21-10-4. But next up is a run of 4 road games starting with a quick turnaround in Philadelphia on Sunday night. The road has been the team’s Achilles’ heel. The team is a meager 9-17-8 away from home.
With the recent winning run, Sunday’s game in Philadelphia takes on just a tiny bit more importance and also represents a match up of 2 teams in the same place in the standings but going in different directions right now.
After surging ahead of the pack during the front part of winter, the Flyers have faded. Philadelphia is tied with the Hurricanes in terms of points but minus 1 game left. The Flyers are also sputtering a bit with a 1-4-0 record in their last 5 games.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Philadelphia Flyers
Against that backdrop, here is what I am watching for the Canes versus Flyers:
1) Legs and jump
The Hurricanes were impressive in terms of jump and speed in Saturday’s win. The Hurricanes seemed to win 70 percent of 50/50 pucks and did a tremendous job of giving Nashville nothing for time, space and ability to assess things and attack. But that was accomplished in part by Bill Peters riding his top players very heavily. I detailed the minutes played by key players in the Canes/Preds game recap. The question is whether the Hurricanes can ride momentum and good vibes to a repeat performance, or if the team spent all it had on Saturday. In the early going on Sunday in Philadelphia, I will be watching closely to see if the Hurricanes have enough jump.
2) The top guns
Saturday featured especially strong efforts by a couple of the team’s top players. Jeff Skinner netted 2 goals and had a post to boot in searching for a hat trick. Jaccob Slavin had 2 assists to go with his usual strong play defensively. Jordan Staal collected a goal and an assist in 1 of his trademark puck possession games that saw him help tilt the ice into the offensive zone on many of his shifts. And despite not getting on the score sheet, I thought Justin Faulk had an incredibly strong game defensively. For the Hurricanes to power through some of these tough stretches of schedule a leader or 2 will need to step up. On Sunday night, I will be watching to see who rises up to carry the team. I think it takes a hero or 2 to win on Sunday.
3) Your turn now – goaltending
I have not seen/heard an official announcement as of writing this game preview, but my expectation is that Cam Ward will start the second half of the back-to-back with travel. (That said, he did choose to try Ward for 2 in a row when he won on Monday and then started again on Tuesday.) Ward had an interesting first half of the week. He won on Monday despite allowing 4 goals and in my opinion not playing very well. I thought he was actually better in Tuesday’s loss except for an overtime goal that went right off him and into the net. My hunch is that a Hurricanes night playing 2 in a row and 3 games in 4 days might need a heroic effort in net to keep the positive run going. Regardless of if it is Ward or Lack, I will be watching early to see if just maybe the Canes netminder looks like he might be capable of being a difference-maker on Sunday night.
The puck drops at about 7:30pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.