Columbus Blue Jackets (49-19-7) at Carolina Hurricanes (34-27-14)
THURSDAY, MARCH 30, 2017, 7 p.m. (PNC ARENA)
A month ago, it looked like another wasted season for the Carolina Hurricanes in a rebuilding process that has taken much longer than the residents of Raleigh would care to acknowledge.
The Hurricanes haven't been to the playoffs since 2008-09 and looked dead in the water as March began, but things have changed a bit. Carolina has points in 12 straight games, an 8-0-4 run that has tied a franchise record and has pushed the squad to the fringes of the playoff race.
With 82 points, Carolina sits four behind Boston for the final playoff spot. Catching the Bruins will still be a tough ask, but the Hurricanes might be the hottest team in hockey heading into tonight's game.
“It’s a good run,” head coach Bill Peters said. “In order to do it you have to find different ways to win. Some nights you might have to grind out a point or maybe win a game when you’re not the better team. Sometimes it’s the goaltender holding you in there. And specialty teams have been real good. What we have going here we just have to keep going.”
The streak has continued through what has been an odd week. Carolina won at New Jersey on Saturday then returned home for home games on back-to-back nights vs. the Red Wings brought on by the fact a game earlier this year vs. Detroit had to be canceled because of a problem with the ice.
Carolina lost Monday's game in overtime on a goal by Andreas Athanasiou, who ran over Hurricanes goaltender Eddie Lack on the play. The hard hit caught Lack's head/neck area, and the netminder had to be stretchered from the ice.
Lack has been released from the hospital, and the Canes were no worse for wear Tuesday in a 4-1 win vs. the Red Wings that officially ended the latter's 25-year playoff streak.
On the other hand, that result kept alive the Hurricanes' dream of overturning their own long playoff streak.
"We're starving for the playoffs," goaltender Cam Ward said. "We've been doing a good job of taking care of ourselves and each day trying to win the day."
You Oughta Know: Jeff Skinner
Ask many fans to name a Carolina Hurricane who has scored 30 goals three times in the last seven years and you might get a blank look from the average hockey fan. The answer would be Skinner, a first-round pick in the 2010 draft who has immediately become a dangerous NHL goal scorer and is still just 24. He had goals in six straight games before Tuesday's win and has 11 tallies in the Canes' streak to give him 31 on the year and is already tied with Rod Brind'amour for third in franchise history with 174 goals, just two behind second-place Jeff O'Neill.
[Fire Emoji] Right Now
- He's been overshadowed in a year in which the league has plenty of standout rookies, but Sebastian Aho has been very good for the Canes with 23 goals and 47 points, both second on the team. The Finn had a six-game point streak earlier this month and had two talles in Saturday's win vs. New Jersey, and Aho has a 3-6-9 line in the last eight games.
- Defenseman Justin Faulk scored twice Monday, giving him 15 goals for the third straight season.
- Fellow blueliner Jaccob Slavin has 10 assists this month, most in the NHL for defensemen, along with three goals. His 13 points in March is one behind Victor Hedman for most among NHL D.
Five Fast Facts
- Center Derek Ryan has assists in five straight games.
- Faulk scored with the Canes' net empty on Monday, notching Carolina's first extra-attacker goal on home ice since Nov. 29, 2014.
- Carolina not only has the league's second-best PK at 85.2 percent, the Hurricanes have scored 10 shorthanded goals this season. Carolina has killed 21 of its last 22 penalties.
- Injuries: Lack has been diagnosed with a neck strain but does not figure to be in the lineup vs. Columbus, though the team is hopeful he'll return before the end of the year. Center Jay McClement has missed eight straight games with a lower-body injury.
- Former Jackets: None
THIS YEAR: Jan. 10: CAR 5, CBJ 3
Jan. 17: CBJ 4, CAR 1
Jan. 21: CBJ 3, CAR 2
ALL TIME SERIES: Columbus leads 14-13-2
Keys to the Game
Match Their Speed: Head coach John Tortorella praised the Hurricanes' team speed in his media briefing Wednesday. Columbus has fared well against fast teams this year but must be ready in this regard.
Match Their Drive: Carolina has been hot and has playing with confidence. Columbus has to bring the same intensity in this one.
Match Their Special Teams: The CBJ power play has been struggling while Carolina's PK has been on fire. Wouldn't it be nice to turn that around?
Hurricanes Projected Lineup
|20||Sebastian Aho||75 GP, 23-24-47||11||Jordan Staal||68 GP, 16-27-43||16||Elias Lindholm||65 GP, 11-32-43|
|53||Jeff Skinner||72 GP, 31-24-55||33||Derek Ryan||60 GP, 11-16-27||21||Lee Stempniak||75 GP, 15-23-38|
|42||Joakim Nordstrom||75 GP, 6-5-11||49||Victor Rask||75 GP, 16-27-43||86||Teuvo Teravainen||75 GP, 15-24-39|
|34||Phil Di Giuseppe||33 GP, 1-6-7||71||Lucas Wallmark||5 GP, 0-1-1||23||Brock McGinn||50 GP, 5-9-14|
|27||Justin Faulk||68 GP, 16-19-35, -10||5||Noah Hanifin||74 GP, 3-21-24, -16|
|74||Jaccob Slavin||75 GP, 5-28-33, +22||22||Brett Pesce||75 GP, 2-15-17, +18|
|6||Klas Dahlback||36 GP, 1-4-5, -7||26||Matt Tennyson||38 GP, 0-6-6, -9|
10 Stats to Know
Impress your friends and enemies alike with these 10 key Carolina Hurricanes stats.
|Last 10||Standings||PP%||PK%||CF60 (5x5)||CA60 (5x5||PDO||OT (SHO)||FO%||5x5 GF-GA|
|7-0-3||6th, Metro||18.0 (21)||85.2 (2)||57.35||54.49||98.73 (26)||6-14 (2-5)||52.8 (4)||135-156|