Tracking the Storm

Drive to Olympic Break Begins

Friday, 01.17.2014 / 3:00 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Drive to Olympic Break Begins
Between now and the Olympic break, the Hurricanes will play 11 games in 22 days, including eight at PNC Arena.
The Carolina Hurricanes’ 2013-14 schedule has been arranged in certain divisible segments.

Michael Smith
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October was split not necessarily between the before and after of the annual State Fair road trip, but rather the four-day break during the road swing that allowed the team to return to Raleigh. December was virtually split in half, featuring a tightly-packed, road-heavy first half followed by a more spread out, home-friendly second half.

January is very similar: a virtual split in half divisible by a four-day gap between games, the latter of which will spill into February before the two-and-a-half week Olympic break.

Between now and then, the Hurricanes will play 11 games in 22 days, including eight of those at PNC Arena, where Carolina is a game over hockey .500 at 10-9-5 on the season.

“You need to be pushing hard to pick up points because everyone in our division is, especially at home, so we’ve got to be ready to go tomorrow,” Eric Staal said.

“We’re focused on the games coming up. It’s a big weekend,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “We’ve got to take advantage of being a strong home team here until the Olympic break.”

After Monday’s loss to Calgary, the Canes had a battle-focused practice on Tuesday followed by an off-day on Wednesday. Thursday’s practice at Raleigh Center Ice was an extended, two-part skate, and Friday’s capped a productive week in preparation for the stretch ahead. Each practice also had a common theme – revisiting and touching up on the fine details of the team’s game.

“It’s been great. It’s what we wanted this week. We wanted to take advantage of the practice time to work on our system, our special teams and keep everybody sharp,” Muller said. “We’ve had some good quality time to work on things and gear up for now until the Olympic break.

“We worked on special teams every day. It was more like a review of our system – our defensive zone coverage, our neutral zone and our offensive attack. We did more video than we normally do to go over stuff, and then we applied it in practice.”

The extended break between games also gave Staal, among others, a chance to rest some nagging injury issues.

“I don’t think it hurt. I felt good health-wise last game, but you’re still trying to get up to speed,” he said. “We had a good couple practices this week, a good pace, good battle level and good tempo. For me, it’s good to let that kind of rest this week and look forward to a big stretch drive before the break.”

The Olympic break sets the table for a dense stretch drive that will consist of 16 of 25 games being played on the road.

“Physically, it’s demanding because of the back-to-backs, the way that teams compete and the battle level you have to have,” said Staal, who returned to the lineup on Monday after missing three games with a lower-body injury. “You really need to take care of yourself.”

Because of how often the Canes will play the final 50 days of the season, a stretch that includes a number of back-to-back and three-in-four scenarios, practice time will be limited. This week marked a targeted opportunity for the Canes to rest, recharge and refocus heading into the stretch run of the season. Despite dropping their last two games, both shutouts, the Hurricanes are placing emphasis on the fact that they’ve won five of their last seven games, including four of six in January.

“There are going to be some games from here to the end that we’re going to be disappointed in and there are games we’re going to steal. Whatever it is, it’s a matter of finding points,” Muller said. “We had this week to work on things because, coming up, we’re not going to be able to run these practices.”

The Canes begin their drive to the Olympic break with games against old Southeast Division opponents Florida and Tampa Bay in a back-to-back home set.

“We know the identity of our team and what we do. When we do it well, we have success, and that’s what we have to concentrate on,” Muller said. “We’re rested and we worked on stuff. Now, (we have to) go out, get back on track and take care of the things we can control. What we can control is how we play, and that starts tomorrow.”



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