Unconventional Road Trip Ahead for Canes
|Follow on Twitter|
The Canes will fly out to Anaheim today to get in a full practice tomorrow afternoon in advance of Wednesday night’s game. They’ll stay the night in Colorado following Friday’s game so as not to fly across two time zones in the middle of the night.
“It’s an interesting schedule, but we’re spoiled in the East,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “You look at [the Los Angeles Kings] and their trip from St. Louis down to here, down to Florida and back out West somewhere. It’s a test for us, but there is a little bit of a break in between to give us a chance to recover.
“We’re not used to traveling. It’s what you get used to, really. We’re not used to those hours of flying like that, so it’s kind of nice we get out an extra day early.”
The Hurricanes’ road trip begins in Anaheim, a locale the team hasn’t visited since November 2009. This will be the first of two meetings between the teams this season, with the Ducks making a trip to the RBC Center on Feb. 23.
“I haven’t seen them hardly at all this year,” Muller said. “I do know that it’s not coincidental that they’re playing really well right now. Their top guys are their best players, and they’re playing a lot. When your best players are your best players, you’re going to start winning games.”
At the ripe hockey-playing age of 41, Teemu Selanne shows no sign of wilting. He leads the team with 49 points (18g, 31a). Corey Perry, who pulled out a mini-stick in the Breakaway Challenge in the Skills Competition, leads the team in goals with 22.
The Canes defeated the Ducks in the teams’ lone meeting last year, a 4-2 win at the RBC Center. Eric Staal recorded a natural hat trick in the game, and Cam Ward made 43 saves.
On Friday, the Canes meet up with a team knocking on the door of the Western Conference playoff picture. Not helping Colorado’s cause is the fact that they’re winless in five straight games. The game against the Canes will wrap up a four-game homestand for the Avalanche.
Ryan O’Reilly is the Avs leading scorer. He has 38 points (14g, 24a). Colorado ranks 24th in the league in goals per game at 2.37.
Another rare Western Conference opponent, the Canes and Avs met once last year, a 2-1 overtime win for the Hurricanes at home. That game featured a highlight-reel goal by then-rookie Jeff Skinner, which you may recall: he kicked his own rebound to his stick and roofed a seemingly impossible backhand shot. Ward came up big again in that game, making 34 saves.
On Monday, the Canes wrap up their road trip back in the Eastern Time zone against the Montreal Canadiens. This will be the first trip back to Montreal for Muller and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek.
Spacek was in his third season with Montreal when he was dealt to Carolina in early December.
The Hurricanes and Canadiens have played twice this season, both in November. The first was a debilitating 4-0 loss for the Canes at the Bell Centre. Just a week later, the Canes earned a point in a 4-3 shootout loss. PK Subban has 3 points (1g, 2a) in the season series.
Montreal has been slipping fast in the standings. Winning just two of their last five games, they’ve fallen into 14th in the Eastern Conference.
Muller said Sunday after practice that the team would be taking along an extra forward, just in case the body was needed while the team is out West. However, Riley Nash was reassigned to the Charlotte Checkers today. Now healthy, Chad LaRose should be back in the lineup on Wednesday.
The Hurricanes are still carrying an extra defenseman. Derek Joslin has sat out the last two games since Spacek’s return from his face injury.
Expect to see Ward start in goal in all three games on this road trip.
“I’d love to get [Justin Peters] in, but I think it’s going to be more depending on the schedule,” Muller said. “It’s spaced out, [Ward’s] on a roll, the team’s playing well, he had the week off so he’s well-rested. And this is where he usually excels – later on – from what I’ve learned.
“We’re going to ride him hard right now until the schedule tightens up with more games condensed.”