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NHL Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes December Road Trip At A Glance

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Carolina Hurricanes December Road Trip At A Glance

James Guillory - USA Today Sports

After a monster start to the month of December, the Carolina Hurricanes head out this week for a four-game swing through the Pacific Division. When the schedule was written, this trip could have been an interesting little jaunt, letting some fans see the Hurricanes play who otherwise wouldn't, thus making Gary Bettman happy, thinking that his stupid realignment plan is working.

This is no normal December, though, with Carolina on a three-game winning streak made up of some big time performances. The jump in the standings coming right before this trip doubles down on the importance. Whether Carolina can blow out their mediocre opponents out west will determine the course ahead. Is this consistency or a fluke?

As the chips continue to drop in this weird month, it turns out the four opponents on this trip make up the bottom of their division. That does not justify guards being let down at all. It was only three short weeks ago that Carolina's game was just as nauseating. Assuming a win at any point is ill-advised, but doing so during a winning streak is a whole new level of moronic.

It is incumbent upon players and coaches alike to maintain the streak by maintaining the intensity as well as respecting the streak. As the great wise man Crash Davis once mused, “A player on a streak has to respect the streak. You know why? Because they don't happen very often.” The same goes for a team.

Looking ahead, what does this crucial road trip hold for the Hurricanes and what do they have to look forward to?

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5: Vancouver Canucks (Dec 9)

James Guillory - USA Today Sports

Vancouver is the only team on this road trip that the Hurricanes have already faced -- a 3-2 loss

Not many things have changed other than the date. Vancouver, with a winning streak of their own, can still present a threat. This hinges on the goaltender Vancouver's obnoxious head coach John Tortorella goes with. While Roberto Luongo has confidence to spare, Eddie Lack already handed Carolina a loss.

The key for Carolina here is to come out swinging early and often.

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4: Edmonton Oilers (Dec 10)

James Guillory - USA Today Sports

Oddly enough, Carolina and Edmonton haven't played each other since December 2011.

Faces and names may have changed, but nothing can change the fact of Edmonton being in a slide. In fact, that team hasn't been right since the Fall For Hall in 2009. With the Oilers forcing a "new look" team, nobody can get around the fact that Carolina is on a tear and Edmonton isn't.

With the Oilers having similar goaltending chaos as Carolina, the key is to allow Jeff Skinner to get bonkers all over Devan Dubnyk or whomever head coach Dallas Eakins thinks can handle that kid.

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3: Calgary Flames (Dec 12)

James Guillory - USA Today Sports

The last cold-weather stop on the trip is the Calgary Flames.

Bottom line is that Calgary has a goaltending problem. No goalie on the team has a saves percentage north of .900 and the combined GAA is 3.15. Giving up 45 goals-against in 14 home games sure isn't helping either.

The Flames will be Carolina's second opponent in a row without an effective goaltending corps, and again it will come down to the Hurricanes' surging first and second lines to make it rain offensively.

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2: Phoenix Coyotes (Dec 14)

James Guillory - USA Today Sports

Go ahead and say "It's only Phoenix" and watch what happens.

All the talk of a push can vanish with just a drop of complacency. Should Carolina have any sort of success in the Canadian leg of the trip, Phoenix can easily come out of nowhere and shut some fans up. No matter how much of a house in turmoil the Coyotes are, every team has a chance to win every night.

As long as Carolina stays healthy, Phoenix shouldn't be a problem. However, be serious -- has Carolina stayed healthy at all this season?

Which brings us to...

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1: Five Days Off

Geoff Burke - USA Today Sports

Cut the noise, someone's getting hurt on this trip.

While Carolina can't seem to finish a week without someone getting concussed, five days off will allow the team to heal from the inevitable injuries. Since the meat of the Eastern Conference lurks in the second half of December, the five days will let head trainer Pete Freisen do his thing, and not let the injury bug's bite(s) have any effect.

Head coach Kirk Muller would be wise to allow two of the five days off to be rest days, while still maintaining conditioning standards.