Gameday: Hurricanes vs. Islanders

No 'Easy Games' for the Canes

Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 12:22 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Hurricanes vs. Islanders
Looking at the statistics, it’s easy to draw similarities between the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders.

Michael Smith
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Both teams have 13 wins and 32 points. Both teams average around 2.5 goals per game and 3.2 goals against per game. Neither team has won a game when trailing after two periods, and both teams have just one regulation loss when leading after two.

That said, tonight will be no easy game for the Hurricanes, who have won three straight and four of their last five games at home.

“Every game right now for us, in order to climb the ladder, we’ve got to win, whether it’s at home or on the road,” Eric Staal said. “We’ve beaten some pretty good teams, and we’re one of the teams that are lower in the standings in the Eastern Conference, so there are no easy games for anybody.”

“Honestly, I look at every opponent as being hard,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “There are no easy games anymore. Every dressing room is saying the same thing. It’s all one goal games, so your competitive level has to be high.”

Lately at home, the Canes’ competitive level has been high, save a few breakdowns here and there. In their last home game, the Canes surrendered two quick goals in the third period. They responded, however, to tie the game and win in overtime. It’s that confidence that Muller wants to see on a more consistent basis.

“We haven’t obviously been perfect,” Muller said. “We’ve had our little meltdowns at times. But when we’re going and playing our game, the guys are starting to believe we can play with any team. Now we’ve just got to understand we have to do it consistently.”

“It’s a big game for us at home against a team we want to beat,” Staal said. “We’re coming off a loss there in Tampa, and we’ve got to make sure we remember that feeling of a loss and kind of hold that inside and come out here tonight aggressive, strong and confident at home. We’ve been playing well here, and we want to keep that going.”

The Hurricanes have had a good bit of success against the Islanders as of late. Strangely enough, this is the first of four meetings between the teams this season, three of which will be played in January. Carolina swept the season series in 2010-11, outscoring the Islanders 18-8 in the four games. In their last 23 meetings, dating back to January of 2006, the Canes are 17-3-3. To find the last time the Canes lost in regulation to the Islanders, you have to go back to Oct. 25, 2008; in the 12 meetings since then, the Canes are 10-0-2.

Cam Ward will start tonight for the Hurricanes, and his success against the Islanders follows closely with the team’s. Ward is 14-2-1 with a 2.21 goals against average and one shutout versus New York.

So, though there are no easy games in the NHL, recent statistics and their play at home favors the Hurricanes. That said, only the score after 60 or more minutes tonight matters.

“You enjoy games when you win games,” Staal said. “Hopefully, we’ll get off to the right start [in the New Year] here tonight.”

INJURY UPDATE

Jeff Skinner, who has missed the last 10 games with a concussion, skated in a yellow, non-contact jersey with the team for the second day in a row. While he’ll most likely not be cleared for contact until later in the week at the earliest, it is expected that he will continue to practice with the team moving forward.

Patrick Dwyer, who has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, also skated today in a non-contact jersey. This was his first time on the ice since being out of the lineup.

“No contact, but it was a step ahead,” Muller said. “Anytime you get the yellow jerseys out, it’s one step closer. He felt pretty good, so we’ll see how he adjusts tomorrow.”

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