The All-Star weekend is complete and the return to regular season hockey awaits the NHL and the Carolina Hurricanes. Sebastian Aho had a nice weekend in Toronto and made the Caniacs proud but it is time to focus on the task at hand. Tuesday will begin the unofficial second half of the NHL season.
The Canes received good news on the injury front as the goaltending position is getting healthier and healthier. Pyotr Kochetkov recently returned from injury and now Frederik Andersen appears to be one step closer to a return with his latest activity.
A very important position for a Stanley Cup contender, the Canes will have almost 4 viable options in between the pipes heading towards the NHL trade deadline.
As we welcome back the Canes to the ice, it is cringing to look at the upcoming schedule for the first week back. Heck, the first two weeks back from the All-Star break are brutal. Thankfully the games this week will be at PNC Arena, but the following week will be out west on the road.
Tuesday, the Vancouver Canucks come to Raleigh and bring their 71 points, which is tied for the top of the NHL right now. They also will be adding a new face, familiar to Carolina, in Elias Lindholm. Added over the break, the Canucks are adding to their already stellar roster.
Thursday, the 67-point Colorado Avalanche make their way to Raleigh. Third best in the NHL, Aho's new friend Nathan MacKinnon will bring his talents to PNC Arena. The Metro Division rival, New Jersey Devils, will then come in and close out the homestand. Always a tough game and an important match in the standings, the Devils are looking to rise in the second half of the season.
If that week wasn't tough enough for you, the Canes head to Dallas to face the Stars with 66 points currently. Another team loaded with talent and looking to add to the roster, the Stars could have new faces by puck drop. Rod Brind'Amour's group will then head to the desert to face the Coyotes in their 5,000-seat arena. In what appears to be the only down game, the Coyotes have had a competitive season and are tough at home.
To close out the second week back from the All-Star break, the reigning Stanley Cup champions will host the Hurricanes. The Golden Knights have had a solid season with 64 points but are looking to get on a run ahead of the spring.
A very strong test for the Canes, by the end of these next two weeks we will know a lot about this team. Can they compete with the big boys?