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Capitals vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Gameday: Canes Expect Tight-Checking Game

Saturday, 11.09.2013 / 12:15 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Canes Expect Tight-Checking Game
The Canes look to extend their winning streak to three games, beginning a stretch of four straight games against Western Conference opponents.
Beginning with tonight’s tilt against the Minnesota Wild, the Carolina Hurricanes will play their next four games against Western Conference opponents, teams that are known to thrive in structured, tight-checking games.

Michael Smith
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The Canes are aware of this and relish the opportunity, especially considering their last two victories have come by scores of 2-1 and 1-0, respectively.

“We should have the confidence that we can go into a game and play this type of game tonight,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “Minnesota is not going to beat themselves. They’re a smart team, they play well and that’s how we have to approach it tonight, too.”

“It’s a tight league. 2-1, 3-2, 1-0, shootouts. That’s across the board,” Eric Staal said. “Everybody is starting to play a similar style game, and it’s tight checking.”

Recent games between these two teams have been closely battled. Eleven of the last 15 meetings have been decided by one goal or fewer (including two ties).

In the last meeting between the Canes and Wild, which occurred just over two weeks ago, Carolina spotted Minnesota an early 2-0 lead. Though the Canes would bring the score to within one, the two goals were all the Wild needed, as they took a 3-1 victory. That game would kick-start what turned into a five-game losing streak for Carolina.

But in the two games since, the Canes have been opportunistic, scoring the right goals at the right times. Muller said that has to continue.

“When we get that opportunity, we’ve got to cash in,” he said. “It might be in the first period, it might be the first shift of the first, it might be the last shift of the third period. We’ve got to be ready when we have the opportunity to capitalize.”

“Minnesota is playing well defensively, and we feel like we’re playing a good defensive game, so there’s not going to be a lot of room out there,” Staal said. “We have to stick to our structure and make sure we don’t break before they do.”

Building confidence in the team defense was a topic of discussion following Thursday night’s 1-0 victory. That begins and works outward with Justin Peters, who will make his seventh straight start and has stopped 49 of his last 50 shots faced.

“Not only Justin’s confidence, but our group in general, our confidence in our team game has grown a lot. We’ve had the ability to play four lines the last two games and have everybody contribute,” Staal said. “It’s going to be grinding-type games certain nights, and the team game is the most important thing. The identity of this group is getting stronger, and we need to continue to grow that.”

“We’ve got the foundation growing of playing well defensively, and the goals will come,” Muller said. “But we can’t put the goals and the lack of goals ahead of the way we’re playing.”

Not only have the Hurricanes scored timely goals in the last two games, but they’ve come from perhaps an unexpected source in the fourth line. Scoring depth – especially when Staal hasn’t scored in eight straight games, Jiri Tlusty hasn’t scored in seven and Alexander Semin hasn’t tallied in six – is a good thing to have.

“It can help you win games, as we saw,” Staal said. “Those contributions are huge.”

PNC Arena is the only current NHL building in which Minnesota has not won a game, as the Canes are 5-0-0 against the Wild at home. The Hurricanes last hosted the Wild on Nov. 15, 2009, a 5-4 shootout victory for Carolina.

Tonight’s game will bring close to the two teams’ two-game season series, as the Canes look to extend their winning streak to three games.

“In the midst of where we’re at right now, every game is extremely important, especially on this homestand,” Staal said. “We’re right in the middle of it, we’ve had a good start to it and now we need to continue on that path.”



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 60 39 16 5 162 133 83
2 NYI 62 40 20 2 200 173 82
3 NYR 59 37 16 6 186 145 80
4 TBL 62 37 19 6 203 167 80
5 PIT 61 35 17 9 176 152 79
6 DET 59 33 15 11 173 154 77
7 WSH 62 33 19 10 184 156 76
8 BOS 60 29 22 9 158 158 67
9 FLA 60 26 21 13 145 169 65
10 PHI 61 26 24 11 162 178 63
11 OTT 58 25 23 10 166 161 60
12 NJD 61 25 27 9 137 161 59
13 CBJ 59 26 29 4 155 184 56
14 TOR 60 24 31 5 167 183 53
15 CAR 59 22 30 7 134 159 51
16 BUF 61 18 38 5 114 204 41

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 59 11 27 -16 38
E. Staal 54 18 18 -9 36
E. Lindholm 58 11 15 -16 26
J. Skinner 54 15 9 -16 24
J. Tlusty 52 13 10 -17 23
R. Nash 56 7 14 -9 21
N. Gerbe 55 6 14 -13 20
A. Sekera 57 2 17 -7 19
V. Rask 57 8 10 -18 18
J. McClement 59 4 12 1 16
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 16 19 4 .914 2.35
A. Khudobin 6 11 3 .901 2.73