Devils vs. Hurricanes
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 MTL 74 46 20 8 195 162 100
2 NYR 72 46 19 7 219 167 99
3 TBL 74 46 21 7 242 191 99
4 NYI 75 44 26 5 228 208 93
5 PIT 74 40 23 11 204 186 91
6 DET 72 39 21 12 208 195 90
7 WSH 73 39 24 10 212 180 88
8 OTT 72 37 24 11 212 190 85
9 BOS 74 36 25 13 195 193 85
10 FLA 73 33 26 14 180 201 80
11 PHI 75 30 29 16 196 216 76
12 NJD 73 31 31 11 164 186 73
13 CBJ 73 34 35 4 198 228 72
14 CAR 73 27 36 10 170 201 64
15 TOR 74 27 41 6 193 237 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