As much as Canes fans yearn for the chance to tailgate in mid/late April before playoff games, they will have to wait yet another year. With spring weather, a holiday weekend and a home back-to-back, this weekend is the closest we will get this season.
The game sees the Canes with 1 of its leaders in Justin Faulk back in the lineup for only his second game of the month and also sees the team trying to build off of a road win on Thursday. The opposition is the New York Islanders. The Isles come in reasonably entrenched in a playoff spot, but needing to find a higher gear heading into April. The Isles are just 1-4 in their last 5 games.
Here is what I will be watching for Saturday’s game:
1) Newest try out – Patrick Brown
Patrick Brown has been recalled from Charlotte and is expected to make his 2015-16 debut on Saturday. He is yet another older prospect at 23 years old who gets a chance to make an impression with Coach Bill Peters and GM Ron Francis before they start building the team for 2016-17. His game is that of a checking line forward, so I would view him as an option for a fourth line role.
2) Any shuffling
A couple days ago, I posted a list of combinations that I consider looking at down the stretch. Over the last 8 games, it will be interesting to see what combinations of players the team uses, as this will provide early insight into what Peters and Francis are at least considering for the 2016-17 roster.
In the same vein as #2, I will be closely watching the Slavin/Faulk pairing. Peters can always go back to Hainsey/Faulk, but my gut feeling right now tells me that Slavin/Faulk could be the team’s #1 pairing starting next season. I thought they looked a bit disjointed at times on Thursday, but that is not surprising considering their limited ice time together and also the fact that Justin Faulk was returning after a long layoff. It would be great to see this duo build familiarity and find some chemistry down the stretch.
4) The leadership
Saturday marks the second game since Eric Staal’s departure that both Justin Faulk and Jordan Staal have been in the lineup. This is a time for starting to chart the course to a new future.
The puck drops at about 7:07pm at PNC Arena.