The Carolina Hurricanes head into the second full week of February with three tough games on tap in a four-day span. The Hurricanes travel north to face the New York Islanders on Monday and the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, and a home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday will wrap up the week’s schedule. Heading into this week, the Hurricanes have an almost-even 5-4-1 record and sit second in the Southeast Division. The Hurricanes have taken five points from their last three games, and have a chance to make a big statement if they can get four or more points from their games this week.
The Islanders, Devils and Maple Leafs have all looked like contenders at times this season as well. The Islanders are seventh in the league in goals scored per game, and have a top-five penalty kill. The Hurricanes power play has improved as of late and will need to continue to be strong to power the team past New York. The Devils are always dangerous with Martin Brodeur in net, and allow the third fewest goals in the league. Tuesday night’s game would be a great chance for Carolina’s offense to make a big statement, but the ‘Canes will also be on the back end of a two-days, two-games stretch. The Hurricanes defeated the Maple Leafs 4-1 the last time the two teams met, but have since rattled off three straight wins behind an offensive outburst and the solid goaltending of youngsters Ben Scrivens and James Reimer. The Maple Leafs penalty kill has been perfect in their past two games but was a major weakness early in the season, so the Hurricanes need to try and take advantage of every power play chance they get on Thursday.
Carolina netminder Cam Ward seems to finally be settling in for the season, and is 2-0-1 in his last three games. In all likelihood he will start at least two of the three games this week, and the Hurricanes need a couple of big performances from him. Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner have been great this season and lead the team in all offensive categories, but the Hurricanes still need more secondary scoring to get by their Eastern Conference opponents.
If the Hurricanes can take a handful of points from this week’s games and the Tampa Bay Lightning continue to slide, Carolina could be sitting in a playoff position by the weekend. The Lightning currently hold a one point advantage in the standings, but look for Staal, Ward and the rest of this Carolina team to try and change that by Thursday.