Gameday: Hurricanes vs. Senators
Maurice Looks for Confidence from Staal, Not Break-Out Game
It’s been nearly two full weeks since the Carolina Hurricanes’ last home game, one that saw the home team defeat the Boston Bruins 3-2 to capture their first win of the season. A State Fair road trip later, the Canes look to put another notch in the win column at home against the Ottawa Senators.
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“That road trip left a little bad taste in the mouth, so it’s a big game tonight,” defenseman Joni Pitkanen said. “We need points and they need them too, so it’s going to be a battle.”
Carolina dominated the season series versus Ottawa last season, going 3-1 and outscoring the Senators 17-7. Coming into tonight’s game, Ottawa is 3-5; they started the season by losing five of six and have since rebounded to win two straight games.
As they are riding a winning streak, one might expect Ottawa to come out of the gate strong. But so far this season, that has not been the case. The Senators have scored just three goals in the first period and five in the second; they’ve finished strong, though, piling on 15 goals in the third period this season.
On the other end of the ice, the Canes have come out strong in nearly every game they’ve played, included the last two games especially. Their problem has been holding onto the lead, partly due to the costly penalties they’ve taken.
“I think we’ve come out of the gate ready to play,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “In the games that we gave up some things, we spent more time in the penalty box than we wanted to. And clearly against Ottawa, that’s not a good idea with their power play.”
That power play is ranked third in the league at a solid 29 percent. The Hurricanes’ kill was shaky in Winnipeg, as the Jets tied the game 2-2 in the first period with two power play goals.
At the same time, the Sens’ penalty kill is ranked 29 in the league at 62.9 percent, which might be the remedy the Canes need for a struggling power play.
“We’ve liked our starts, but the penalties have been the thing that has swung the game sometimes for us,” Maurice said. “Staying out of the box is critical.”
Eric Staal, who scored what would be the game-winner. His goal also ended a five-game goal draught for the Captain, who was minus-4 in that stretch.
In his last six games, Staal has just 1 point (a goal) and is minus-7. Overall, he has 4 points (3g, 1a) and is a minus-10.
“I’m not looking for him to break out. I’m not looking for that game,” Maurice said. “The opposite is true – I’d like to see that confidence and that patience in his game where he knows it’s going to come.
“He knows he has to drive this team in terms of points, and he usually does. But that’s not the most important thing for our team winning because him scoring goals wasn’t the difference in Boston, Buffalo, Boston.”
Despite the overtime and regulation losses that ended the Canes’ road trip, the team still feels good about the way they’re playing, a sentiment not completely unfounded – considering the way the Canes started both of those games, the result could have easily gone the other way barring a penalty here or a shot off the post there.
“You want to feel good all the time. Split it any way you want, we feel pretty good where we’re at,” Maurice said. “We’re not happy with the last two games, but we’re playing a pretty good brand of hockey right now.”
Anthony Stewart did not skate again in this morning’s skate. He missed practice yesterday due to a lower-body injury.
Zach Boychuk has been called up from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL to replace Stewart in the lineup tonight. Through seven games in Charlotte, Boychuk has recorded 6 points (4g, 2a). Maurice said that between Jeff Daniels, the Checkers’ head coach, and the front office staff here, they felt Boychuk was the right player to insert in the lineup.
Also nursing a lower-body injury, Zac Dalpe has been placed on injured reserve. He has missed three games and remains week-to-week.