Through 4 games of the North Carolina State Fair road trip, the Carolina Hurricanes are a very respectable 2-2. But keeping the point per game pace for the trip requires earning at least 1 point in the second half of a back-to-back in San Jose on Saturday night.
The lead up this week is an odd one. On Wednesday, the team struggled offensively and to build any semblance of momentum or even connect a few passes in a row. But the team rode a strong performance from Cam Ward to a 1-0 overtime win. On Saturday night in Los Angeles, the Hurricanes were actually much better registering 40 shots on goal and a decent collection of scoring chances. But the problem was the proverbial ‘hot goalie’ that the Canes face more than their fair share simply because they seem to lack the ability to finish. I detailed 5-6 good scoring chances that missed the net in yesterday’s game recap which is HERE. The power play also continues to do nothing to provide a scoring boost.
The Canes enter Saturday’s game with some lineup questions that will probably be answered mid-afternoon if the team does a morning skate:
- Who starts in net? Conventional wisdom would suggest that Coach Bill Peters will turn to backup Eddie Lack not because of anything Cam Ward has done but rather just because it is time to get him some work in the second half of a back-to-back.
- Can Andrej Nestrasil play? If not, who replaces him? Nestrasil took a shot off his foot or lower half of his leg on Friday and did not return. If he cannot go, there seems to be a chance that Riley Nash who has been skating with the team is ready to go.
- Does Brett Pesce get his chance? He was recalled only to spend 2 games in the press box last weekend and was recalled for another game in the press box on Friday. Michal Jordan’s ongoing struggles seem to leave an opening.
As for what I’m watching on Saturday:
1) An offensive spark
In 2 games this week, the Hurricanes have exactly 0 goals in regulation (and only 1 overtime goal total). On Wednesday the challenge was even generating any chances. On Friday, the team was better at generating chances but was unable to finish on some pretty good chances.
The team desperately needs to step out of character and go score a couple ugly goals. Get pucks to the offensive zone, flood the front of the net with bodies and blast away. The Canes have a decent collection of trigger men in Faulk, Murphy, Liles and Hanifin. The other part (bodies to the net) is mostly a matter of willingness.
Too many offensively capable players are doing exactly nothing to pin it simply on bad luck.
2) Eddie Lack’s readiness
Minus a start during last weekend’s back-to-back, Eddie Lack is 11 days removed from his only start of the season. Long layoffs like this can make it challenging for backup goalies to stay sharp. With the Canes current scoring woes, there seems to be little margin for error in net.
3) The scorers
When you score 1 goal in 2 games, the list of players not producing on the score sheet grows quickly. At this point, it is not about the volume of shots, the Corsi or any other fancy statistical stuff. It is all about if Jeff Skinner finds the puck on his stick with a chance to score, he needs to find the back of the net. The same goes for Jordan Staal, Eric Staal, Elias Lindholm, Kris Versteeg, Nathan Gerbe and basically anyone else.
If the Canes get 8-10 good scoring chances, can they finish 3?
4) Brett Pesce?
Michal Jordan continues to struggle trying to play in the top 4 on his off side. He got better as the game wore on Friday, but his first period featured a penalty against and Marian Gaborik walking right around him to the front of the net. It could be that Pesce is being recalled only as an emergency extra, but if he is being recalled with any kind of consideration for actually seeing the ice, his chances seem to be growing.
The puck drop is another late one at 10:30pm local time.