Tracking the Storm

Canes Gear up for Final Push

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 3:35 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Canes Gear up for Final Push

With 10 games left, the Eastern Conference's playoff race is starting to take shape.

Paul Branecky
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It's starting to look more and more like the Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres will be main rivals for the final spot, although nothing is set in stone. The seventh-place New York Rangers aren’t yet safe, although they’ve done themselves a huge favor by winning four straight. A small group of teams behind the Canes, namely the New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs and Atlanta Thrashers, also have some hope.

“I don’t know what the other teams’ records are going to look like down the stretch, but there have been a lot of strange things happening in this league, and I wouldn’t count anything out yet,” said coach Paul Maurice.

As of Monday morning, it’s Buffalo and Carolina that are staring directly at each other on either side of the cutoff line, with the Sabres holding a three-point edge in an equal amount of games played. The two teams entered the weekend tied in points thanks to the Canes’ overtime win on Friday, with Buffalo then taking three out of a possible four against Atlanta and Nashville to pull ahead once again.

Mathematically, Carolina has a slightly more difficult schedule than Buffalo in terms of points earned by remaining opponents. However, the Sabres have more games against teams that would be considered “on the bubble” as of now - contests that are likely to be among the most intense - with match-ups against New Jersey, Toronto and the Rangers still on the schedule. With the lone exception of Atlanta, the Canes will face teams that either know that they’re in or know that they’re out.

If that ends up being a wash, the timing of the schedule offers no further advantages. With the exception of the final week of the season when Buffalo plays Tampa Bay on a Tuesday and Carolina hosts Detroit the following day, the two teams play their other nine games simultaneously.

That means both teams will have to deal with the fact that eight of their remaining 10 contests are part of back-to-back situations, which for Carolina begins with a home-and-home set with Tampa Bay starting Friday.

“Those back-to-backs, clearly Tampa is fine, and I think with the rest of them the other team is playing the night before too, so that’s a little bit of a treat for us,” said Maurice. “We’ve got an even playing field.”

If things stay roughly the way they are now, the final head-to-head match-up between Carolina and Buffalo at the RBC Center on April 3 should be significant, not that the other games aren’t. Trying to keep that focus without creating the tension that has showed signs of creeping into their game will be a challenge for the Canes the rest of the way.

“With every one of these games, we’ll be talking about it being a must-win game, but with 10 left, you’d take 9-1,” said Maurice. “You want to be careful how you bring that into your room.”

If nothing else, the Canes will enter the final push relatively rested. Tuesday’s game with Ottawa is their only game in a six-day stretch from last Friday’s Islanders game to this Friday’s opener with Tampa Bay.

“I think getting a little recovery time is important,” said Maurice. “We can have lots of energy for the game tomorrow night and then recover again.”


SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72