It’s been a long time since any opponent has had to make adjustments to face the Carolina Hurricanes.
Somehow this is the case going into Friday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils. Having dropped the front end of a home-and-home with the Hurricanes, New Jersey is suddenly in regroup-mode. With starting goalie and current league leader in career temper-tantrums Martin Brodeur having shown his cards in Wednesday’s loss, it’s time for the Devils to circle the wagons. Backup goalie Cory Schneider has recently been whining to the media about his lack of playing time, and it’s likely he’ll get his wish against Carolina on Friday night in Raleigh.
This is a position Carolina hasn’t been in for some time. Regular starting goalie Cam Ward has remembered what the back of his sweater says and is playing up to his own standards again. Captain Eric Staal has mounted a return-to-self of his own, putting together a points streak and reclaiming his spot as team leader in a slew of stats.
There’s also the guys who really never stopped performing. Nathan Gerbe has yet to take his foot off the gas and is trying to dazzle the rest of the team into performing better. Manny Malhotra has proven the haters wrong and is running the faceoff circle. Jordan Staal, the younger of the brothers, has been performing at above-average levels nearly all season.
After Andrej Sekera recently joined the ranks of the injured and is day-to-day with an upper body concern sustained Wednesday night with Tim Gleason projected to be out one more week, it looks like the injury bug is trying to make a comeback. Yet on the flip side, both forward Alexander Semin and backup goalie Anton Khudobin skated in the morning practice Friday. Semin is still listed as out indefinitely, and it’s Khudobin who is closest to returning.
The injuries being dealt with are far less of the potential season-killers from earlier in the season. Carolina is nearly running at full strength, which rightfully scares the rest of the Metropolitan Division.
Knocking on the back door of the Washington Capitals, the Hurricanes have a great chance to switch sides and be the team that needs to be dealt with rather than dealing with everyone else. Proof positive is the pre-game shake up from New Jersey.
It’s not a question of the trend continuing or not; it simply has to. The question is how to keep it going, and therein lies the challenge.