On Saturday night against the Panthers the Carolina Hurricanes 2015-16 season will come to an end. The season will mark the seventh straight disappointment in terms of reaching the playoffs, but on the whole the season was positive and a big step in the right direction. The Canes were both younger and significantly better at the same time which is a great formula for progress.
The opponent in the Florida Panthers also offers optimism. The Panthers who were struggling only a couple years ago are headed to the playoffs led by a young bunch of recent draftees including Ekblad, Barkov, Huberdeau and others. The Panthers are very much the model for what the Canes hope to do very soon.
What I will be watching for Saturday night’s game includes:
1) Jeff Skinner
He needs 2 goals to reach 30 which would be a nice milestone for him in a season that saw him produce offense but equally importantly take significant strides in other areas of his game. If Skinner can score 1 early, his push for 30 becomes and interesting story line for the rest of the game.
2) The shuttle bus try out
Patrick Brown was sent down and Brendan Woods was recalled. Derek Ryan is also still with the Canes but seems unlikely to play after being injured and not returning to the game on Thursday. With Charlotte playing a back-to-back Saturday and Sunday with the playoffs still a possibility, best guess is that the Canes go with 7 defensemen (Jordan reenters the lineup) to fill the roster and leave as much help as possible in Charlotte. This game is a big last impression for Brendan Woods and is also important for older players including Nathan Gerbe, Brad Malone, Chris Terry and Riley Nash who get a last chance to make a strong impression before the summer.
3) Elias Lindholm at center?
Lindholm started at center but also played some shifts at wing late in Thursday’s game. I have liked his game positionally and defensively, but I really think that the Canes need more pure offense/playmaking from the third center slot and am not sure Lindholm fits the bill for that.
The puck drops at about 7pm on Fox Sports with John, Tripp and Michelle.