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Gameday: Canes Meet Columbus in Big Divisional Match-Up

Monday, 01.27.2014 / 12:25 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Canes Meet Columbus in Big Divisional Match-Up
After tonight, the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets will still each have 30 games left to play in the 2013-14 regular season.

Michael Smith
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But one look at the standings white board in the locker room tells the story, setting the table for one of the Canes’ biggest games of the season.

The Hurricanes are 23-19-9 with 55 points in 51 games played. Columbus is 26-21-4 with 56 points in 51 games played. Carolina is in 5th in the Metropolitan Division, and the Blue Jackets are in third, the final divisional playoff spot.

“For game 52, it’s a big one. You’ve got to for sure treat it that way. We know that. Everybody in this room wants to keep the good vibe going that we have,” forward Eric Staal said. “We’re in our building and we had a good rest day yesterday, so we’ve got to be energized and excited about the challenge tonight.”

Tonight will mark the third of five meetings between the two teams, now divisional rivals, this season, and the first two did not go in the Hurricanes’ favor.

The first game was one of the more stinging losses of the year for the Canes. Up 3-2 with less than five minutes to play in regulation, Carolina surrendered a pair of goals to fall 4-3. Most recently, on Jan. 10 in Columbus, the Canes couldn’t solve Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 36 saves in a shutout effort. That win was the Blue Jackets’ second in what would become a string of eight straight victories.

“They’ve won the games, but I think they’ve both been tight games,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “They caught us sleeping for a couple minutes late in the game here, and we walked into a back-to-back game there. It was tight, but we didn’t get results.”

“A good start goes a long way,” Staal said. “We had a good game until the last four minutes. We gave up two (goals) and ended up losing before the (Christmas) break. You have to play a full 60 minutes.”

A good start does indeed go a long way for both teams. 20 of the Blue Jackets’ 26 wins have come when they score first. The Hurricanes are 14-1-4 when scoring first.

“Scoring the first goal is big,” Staal said. “We’ll try to get off to a good start and get after that first one, but if we don’t, we still have to play the right way and a structured game, knowing that if we do that, we’re not going to give up a lot and we’re going to get some chances.”

Momentum has been a key for each team of late, as well. Aided by their eight-game winning streak, Columbus is 9-2-0 in January and 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. The Hurricanes, now riding a three-game winning streak of their own, are 8-3-0 in January and 7-3-0 in their last 10 games.

“When you have [momentum], you want to keep it as long as you can. For us right now, we feel like we have a good vibe and some good momentum going,” Staal said. “It’s about keeping that ball rolling. You have to find ways some nights to get a win or pick up points. That’s what good teams do.”

“Momentum is huge. Once you get it, you have to take advantage of it. You look at two teams tonight that are on a good little roll,” Muller said. “I think it’s also important that you look at a 10-game span. Somewhere along the line in the season, you have to have a pretty good 10 games in there where you try to separate yourself from opponents or get yourself in the race or gain points on other teams. Both teams are doing that right now.”

Anton Khudobin will make his fourth straight start in net. He is 10-3-0 on the season with a 2.20 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. The Canes are expected to dress the same lineup otherwise, with Patrick Dwyer missing his third game with an upper-body injury and Brett Bellemore being the healthy extra on defense.

As far as game No. 52s go, this one is pretty big.

“I expect tonight, under the circumstances of where both teams are, to be a good game,” Muller said.



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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
K. Versteeg 63 11 22 -6 33
E. Staal 63 10 23 -3 33
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81