Tracking the Storm

Canes Ride Winning Streak to Buffalo

Monday, 01.6.2014 / 3:30 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Canes Ride Winning Streak to Buffalo
It has indeed been a happy new year for the Canes, who are unbeaten in three games since the start of 2014 and are riding a four-game winning streak.
It has indeed been a happy new year for the Carolina Hurricanes, who are unbeaten in three games since the beginning of 2014 and are riding a four-game winning streak, dating back to a dramatic come-from-behind victory on New Year’s Eve.

Michael Smith
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That win, in which the Canes scored four times in the third period to erase a three-goal deficit and secured two points in overtime, was pegged as a potential turning point.

Since then, the Hurricanes have rattled off three additional wins in a row, each by a margin of one goal. The streak has vaulted them to fourth place in the Metropolitan Division, just a point back of a playoff spot.

“I think the result is coming through now. We did say before, when we went on the west coast trip, we battled for every point and I thought we played really well out there. We came back, and I thought we played some good hockey after that, but we just beat ourselves, particularly in the Columbus game,” said head coach Kirk Muller, referring to the game on Dec. 23 in which the Canes coughed up a lead in the last four minutes of the game. “I think we’ve been playing some pretty darn good hockey lately. But it’s a game of small margin right now with all one goal games. Now we’re finally starting to play well with the lead.”

Despite a number of injuries to the ranks, the Hurricanes have seen a few notable contributions that have directly affected their recent success.

After missing 32 games with an ankle injury, goaltender Anton Khudobin has returned to the crease and won three consecutive games, stopping 107 of 113 shots faced in that stretch. He’s 5-0-0 on the season with a 1.99 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage. After being activated from injured reserve, Khudobin started in two straight games for the Charlotte Checkers, stopping 77 of 83 shots in that stint.

“I was just really, really pumped before the first game (back),” Khudobin said after Sunday’s game, in which he made 31 saves on 32 shots. “When you didn’t play for two-and-a-half months … the first game in the AHL, I felt like I couldn’t stop the pucks but after, I figured out how to do it. I remembered again.”

Jeff Skinner has continued his dominance of the stat sheet, as he’s scored 16 goals in his last 16 games, dating back to Dec. 3. In that same stretch, Skinner has posted five multi-goal games, including two hat tricks. The 21-year-old forward leads the team with 20 goals and ranks second in team-scoring with 33 points (20g, 13a).

“Skins is starting to find his game and his identity,” Muller said. “He’s playing off of everybody, he’s relaxed and he’s not worried about yapping back at referees or players. He’s staying away from all the junk that goes on in the game. He’s focused, and he’s maturing.”

In Sunday’s win over Nashville, especially, it was important to be able to roll four lines consistently, as Eric Staal missed his first game due to injury since Feb. 26, 2011, depleting the team’s depth down the middle. Skinner and Ruutu handled first-line center business with relative ease, and Manny Malhotra and Brett Sutter provided capable depth support when called upon.

“What I really like in the last few games … our third and fourth line right now has really stepped up. Now what we have going is momentum,” Muller said. “So after our first two lines go running, instead of a little bit of a lapse, our third line is coming out with authority in the game. We’re able to build momentum in games, which we weren’t able to do before.”

The Canes will look to extend their season-high four game winning streak when they visit Buffalo on Tuesday. They will once again be without the services of Staal, who has missed just 13 games due to injury in his entire career.

“All the things came up negative, so it’s just a matter of day-by-day now, getting better,” Muller said of Staal, who has a lower-body injury.

The trip will mark the first journey back to Buffalo for former Sabres Andrej Sekera and Nathan Gerbe.

“There are always changes. The easy thing to do is say, oh, it didn’t work out in one place because of whatever. They key is that when at athlete gets the opportunity to move on and has a new start, does he take advantage of that?” Muller said. “Lots of times, you go to a new place and get a new opportunity. Both (Sekera and Gerbe) have really excelled beyond expectations and taken advantage of it.”

Jiri Tlusty (appendectomy) and Riley Nash (lower body) skated on Monday, but don’t expect to see them back in the lineup just quite yet. Jay Harrison, who was activated from injured reserve on Sunday, also skated. Muller wouldn’t commit to a starting goaltender or potential lineup changes.

“We’re just game-by-game,” he said. “If you don’t focus on that night’s game, you’re giving yourself bad odds of doing well. Anyone can beat anybody now. That’s the NHL.”



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 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