As we come down the stretch of the NHL regular season, the Carolina Hurricanes hold a one-point lead on the New Jersey Devils. The Hurricanes do have two games in hand on the Devils but this week will be a busy one for Rod Brind’Amour’s group.
The Canes will have two straight matchups against the Metro Division rivals, the New York Rangers. Tonight will be in New York City, while Thursday’s match-up will be in Raleigh.
After making some big splashes before the trade deadline, the Rangers had a brief moment of adjustment but seem to be hitting their stride, scoring 22 goals in their last four games.
It will be a good test for the Canes to gear up for the playoffs but could be devastating if they lose both because the Devils are not only right behind them but the Rangers are just 6 points back from Carolina. Though the Canes also have two games in hand on the Rangers.
The Devils will have a difficult test this evening as well as they host the Minnesota Wild. The Wild are in third place in the Central Division with 88 points.
Tonight could be a defining moment for the Metro Division outcome.
The Devils will not play until Friday and Saturday after tonight’s game in Newark. Friday they will head north to play against the Buffalo Sabres, with a trip farther north on Saturday to play the Ottawa Senators.
Both opponents are holding on for dear life in the Eastern Conference Wild Card race.
The boys from Raleigh will have a busy weekend themselves as they host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and then the Boston Bruins on Sunday for Hartford Whalers night.
Not a very easy week of opponents for the Hurricanes but this will be a true test of what will come in the playoffs.
All four opponents this week will surely be in the playoffs and are potential adversaries to the Canes for even the very first round.
Goaltending will be a huge factor in the outcome of this week’s games as it will be a heavy load against teams with fire power up front. Antti Raanta may be getting closer to returning but it is likely that Pyotr Kochetkov will have to get some work in these vital games.
No matter the outcome of this week, it will be an extremely important lesson and preparation for the playoffs.