Tracking the Storm

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
As far as game No. 52s go, this one is pretty big, as the Canes trail Columbus by a point in the Metropolitan Division.
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.



SCHEDULE

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 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