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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 - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
K. Versteeg 63 11 22 -6 33
E. Staal 63 10 23 -3 33
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81