Devils vs. Hurricanes
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 x - NYR 73 47 19 7 224 168 101
2 MTL 75 46 21 8 197 167 100
3 TBL 75 46 22 7 244 194 99
4 NYI 75 44 26 5 228 208 93
5 PIT 74 40 23 11 204 186 91
6 DET 73 39 22 12 212 201 90
7 WSH 74 40 24 10 215 182 90
8 OTT 73 37 25 11 213 195 85
9 BOS 74 36 25 13 195 193 85
10 FLA 74 34 26 14 184 202 82
11 PHI 75 30 29 16 196 216 76
12 NJD 74 31 31 12 166 189 74
13 CBJ 73 34 35 4 198 228 72
14 CAR 73 27 36 10 170 201 64
15 TOR 75 27 42 6 194 241 60
16 BUF 74 20 46 8 141 249 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 68 20 27 -13 47
J. Faulk 73 14 32 -18 46
E. Lindholm 72 16 20 -21 36
J. Skinner 68 18 12 -22 30
V. Rask 71 11 19 -12 30
R. Nash 67 8 17 -10 25
N. Gerbe 69 7 17 -13 24
J. McClement 73 7 13 -3 20
A. Nestrasil 45 7 13 4 20
J. Staal 37 4 15 -9 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 19 21 5 .910 2.43
A. Khudobin 8 15 5 .903 2.62