Carolina Hurricanes: Back to Business After All Star Break

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 21: Justin Faulk #27 of the Carolina Hurricanes interferes with David Perron #57 of the Vegas Golden Knights during an NHL game on January 21, 2018 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 21: Justin Faulk #27 of the Carolina Hurricanes interferes with David Perron #57 of the Vegas Golden Knights during an NHL game on January 21, 2018 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /

It has been nine days since the Carolina Hurricanes have graced the ice, and two weeks since they did so at PNC Arena. As they take on the Golden Knights, there needs to be one focus: getting back to business and continuing to win games.

It is game day, and it feels good to be able to say that. The Carolina Hurricanes, who with the exception of All Star Sebastian Aho have all had well over a week’s worth of rest, will take on an equally well-rested team in the form of the Vegas Golden Knights.

For the first time in two weeks, the team will play in front of their home crowd. A crowd they left very disappointed when they lost to a poor Ottawa Senators team after getting two days rest – making fans wonder if resting may actually be bad for this team.

The Carolina Hurricanes have since been on a tough road trip in Western Canada. There, their gameplay was elevated as they secured five of the possible six points against teams they do not historically play well against. The question going into tonight’s game is which of these two Carolina Hurricanes teams will we see take on a very tough Vegas Golden Knights roster?

Will we see the team that allowed the team with the least points in the league obliterate them? Or will it be the team that got to obliterate both Connor McDavid‘s Edmonton Oilers and Elias Pettersson‘s Vancouver Canucks, while stealing a point from Johnny Gaudreau and the Calgary Flames?

The Carolina Hurricanes have not played well against the Vegas Golden Knights in their short history. The only three matchups between these two teams since Vegas’ inception last year have seen Vegas come up 2-0-1 to Carolina’s 1-2-0. Not exactly ideal, considering Carolina has not beat them in regulation or in overtime, but had to settle on a shootout win that marked Cam Ward‘s 300th career win. To make matters worse, Vegas has outscored Carolina 10-3, including a 3-0 shutout earlier this season.

But those were different teams with different rosters. Even the Carolina Hurricanes team that was iced in Vegas in early November looks a little different. Nicolas Roy and Valentin Zykov were skating on the team. Jordan Staal was also healthy back then. Scott Darling was our starter in net. While Roy and Zykov combined for less than 14:00 of ice time that game, Staal had a decent game, and Darling’s sv% was barely lower than the average of tonight’s likely starter, Petr Mrazek, it is their replacements that give Carolina a better chance tonight.

In their stead the Carolina Hurricanes have brought in Greg McKeggSaku Maenalanen, and Nino Niederreiter.  Those three have been huge game-changers for the Canes. Greg and Maenalanen have four times the combined points of both Roy and Zykov. Niederreiter is a goal-per-game player while on the Hurricanes roster, and is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Both losses to the Golden Knights have come with Darling in net, including a game last season where he was pulled.

Curtis McElhinney is still in injury limbo. I expect Brind’Amour to turn to Mrazek between the pipes, with no news of any call up from Charlotte. Mrazek is 1-1-0 against the Golden Knights with a 3 GAA, while McElhinney has yet to face the newest team in the league. This is still a weak point for the Carolina Hurricanes when facing the Golden Knights; whatever they do, they cannot allow Vegas to get ahead in this game at any point. The Canes have yet to win a game if they carry a deficit into the third period. Tonight is not the night to attempt it.

While trying for a come from behind win in the third period is not the bad streak they should wish to end tonight, they do want to stop Vegas’ winning streak against them before it gets to three. The keys to winning tonight are to rely on fresh legs, fresh faces, and the fresh start they began in the new year. Their record in January has allowed them to get back within sniffing distance of a playoff spot.

While they are still behind by at least three games, the first step is a win tonight. It is time to show the home crowd that the push in February will have this team become buyers instead of sellers at the deadline. It is time continue the trend of ending bad streaks and continuing good ones. February offers many chances to do exactly that. Tonight is the first chance.

Prediction: Golden Knights 2-4 Hurricanes

Next. Should the Canes move on from Haydn Fleury?. dark

Question for CC Readers: 

Is this Carolina Hurricanes team better off with or without Jordan Staal?