After a decently-played but still somewhat disappointing 2-1 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, the Hurricanes next head to the West Coast for a three-game jaunt through California. The set starts with a Sunday match up against the struggling Los Angeles Kings. The Kings currently sit dead last in the NHL with a 9-16-1 mark.
After consecutive positive weeks at 2-1, the Hurricanes enter Sunday’s game with a 1-0-1 mark this week. As such, an overtime loss nets another week with four out of six points and a win does even better. In addition, the Hurricanes continue to sit right on the playoff cut line such that a win on Sunday should see the team wake up in a playoff spot on Monday.
Here are my watch points for Sunday’s game…
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Los Angeles Kings
1) Jump after travel and the transition to West Coast time
Last time the Hurricanes headed West the team failed to launch out of the starting gate in their first game against Arizona. The result was a quick run of three goals against in the first period. The deficit and possibly some Brind’Amour words between periods served as smelling salts that woke the team up in time for the second period. The result was a dominant performance from the Hurricanes in the second and third periods that netted overtime hockey. The Canes ultimately lost but at least picked up a point despite the slow start. Much better for Sunday would be for the Hurricanes to start on time, play a full 60 minutes and beat a team that is not very good right now handily.
2) More offense from additional forward lines
Stellar play by Curtis McElhinney has yielded points in the standings and papered over the fact that the team is struggling to score right now. Somehow the Canes have converted only four goals in the past three games into a 1-1-1 record. The Hurricanes have fallen to 28th in the NHL in scoring despite a modest improvement in the power play. At some point, this team will need to find more scoring if it is to make a run at a playoff spot. Can one of the depth lines step up like Martinook/Wallmark/Svechnikov did in last week’s win over Florida?
3) A boost from the back end
On Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes activated both Brett Pesce and Haydn Fleury off of injured reserve and returned Jake Bean to the AHL. The blue line is back at 100 percent. With a continued surge by McElhinney, the group has the potential to make another 2-1 win possible. But maybe more significantly, I think this group has more to give offensively. Despite not cracking the score sheet for it, Jaccob Slavin had arguably his best offensive game of the year connecting on five stretch passes that generated good scoring chances off the rush. In addition, I am on the clock for saying that Justin Faulk is due for a break out offensively. And like Faulk, Dougie Hamilton is underperforming scoring-wise relative to his recent history. Can a healthy blue line shore up the defensive play a bit and also chip in more offensively?
#CanesAfterDark is on the docket again with a late 10:30pm start on Fox Sports Carolinas.