Tracking the Storm

Gameday: Hurricanes Face the Islanders - Again

Teams square off for third time this month

Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 12:24 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Hurricanes Face the Islanders - Again
In somewhat of a scheduling quirk, the Carolina Hurricanes will meet the New York Islanders for the third time this month alone.

Michael Smith
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Often times, such frequent meetings will stir up rancor between the two sides. This season series has been virtually absent of that. Just a combined eight penalties have been called in the team’s two meetings, all two-minute minor infractions.

Despite that, the Hurricanes have been and are frustrated with this New York team. In two games against the Islanders this month, the Canes have earned two points, dropping both games by just a goal. New York won 4-3 in a shootout on Jan. 3 and pocketed a 2-1 overtime win on Jan. 21.

“Every game is competitive. The last two games have been good hockey games,” forward Eric Staal said. We’ve got to make sure we get the points out of our building, and I’m sure it’s going to be tight as it’s been.”

This will be both teams’ first game following the All-Star Break. The Canes last played eight days ago, a 2-1 win at home against Winnipeg. Head coach Kirk Muller said this game is about getting back into the flow and rhythm of things.

“Guys are going to want to push and get energized knowing here to the end is the final stretch,” he said. “It’s the little details of the game that our guys have been doing a better job at, and we have to continue that tonight.”

The Hurricanes come into this game having won three straight at home. Though the Canes closed out December with a three-game home winning streak, they haven’t won four in a row at home in nearly two years; from Jan. 24 until March 11, 2010, the team put together an eight-game home winning streak.

A successful stretch of that magnitude would undoubtedly help the Hurricanes’ playoff chances, but the team is taking it on a game-by-game basis. At home has been where the team has had the most success.

“We’ve been coming out strong, our tempo of play has been good and our focus has been good,” Muller said. “We get off to a good start, and you get your fan-base behind you. It’s becoming a comfortable place for our players to play. They’re confident here, they have the good record, so you build on it. We’ve seen the best of our games here so far.”

All-Star forward John Tavares has brought his best against the Hurricanes. He leads the Islanders in points this season with 49 (20g, 29a), and in two games against Carolina, he’s racked up 5 points (2g, 3a). He recorded a three-assist night on Jan. 3 and scored the Islanders’ two goals on Jan. 21. Muller knows that Tavares’ line with Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo is going to present the biggest threat.

“They’ve got one line that can hurt you, and they play a lot,” Muller said. “Tavares has really impressed me. His endurance and skating has improved since he broke into the league, so he challenges the guys that play against him to take it right to the final minute or even into overtime. So, that line is very potent, and they play a high-tempo game.”

Being in the friendly confines of the RBC Center will allow Muller and his staff to get the match-up they want against Tavares’ line, likely tossing out Brandon Sutter’s shutdown trio and the gritty defensive pairing of Tim Gleason and Bryan Allen.

The Hurricanes’ second grouping has a bit of a new look to it. Before the break, Jeff Skinner centered Jussi Jokinen and Zac Dalpe. Tonight, look for recent call-up Riley Nash to center Jokinen and Skinner. This is Nash’s second career NHL stint, as he played two games in December.

Moving Skinner back to the wing is as much a move for him as it is for slotting Nash into a familiar spot, Muller said.

“We’re looking for a guy to jump into the top six,” he said. “[Nash] can play center, and it gives Skinner more room to play offensively.”

That line also features three players who have played and are capable of playing at center, which could be of importance in the face-off circle. Muller said that gives them the freedom to shuffle who is taking the draw should one player be struggling or should the side of the ice favor a right- or left-handed player.

Staal knows the importance of keeping the ball rolling on what has been a successful three-game stint at home, dating back to mid-January.

“We want to start off of this break right and get a big win at home,” he said.



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 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