Carolina's up-and-down season continued this past weekend with a thrilling overtime home win over Colorado followed by a road loss to the Predators. The Hurricanes are now in the midst of a five-day stretch without a game while they prepare for another back-to-back Friday and Saturday.
Here are five observations from the weekend’s split.
1. The Hurricanes have continued to battle to stay at or near .500, sitting at 11-12-3 through 26 games. That was OK when the rest of the Eastern Conference was battling to find some consistency, but the conference's top eight teams have started to put some space between themselves and the teams on the outside looking in. The Thrashers have won seven of 10 to build a five-point cushion over eighth-place Ottawa, while Carolina is tied with Buffalo with 25 points in 10th. It's been preached by everyone from coach Paul Maurice to GM Jim Rutherford to the players: it's time to make a move and get into the thick of the playoff hunt. But the win one, lose one route isn't going to cut it. With seven of the month's 10 remaining games on the road, Carolina needs to establish themselves as a true playoff contender or prepare for another sell-off at the trade deadline.2. Cam Ward kept the Canes in the game against Colorado Friday and was rewarded with an overtime win. Maurice went back to him Saturday, but Ward was unable to duplicate the previous night's performance. That's not to say Ward was the reason for the Canes’ 5-2 loss, but he is now 2-3 on the back end of back-to-back games compared to 3-1-1 in the first game. He is on pace to match his career-high of 69 games played and with Carolina battling to remain in the playoff hunt, one can't expect to see a lot of backup Justin Peters.
3. After putting up three points and a plus-1 in his first four games with the Hurricanes, defenseman Ian White is minus-4 with no points in his past four. White has continued to look confident and is particularly adept at winning defensive zone battles and finding a way to clear the zone, but one has to wonder if the pairing with Joni Pitkanen is working. In the past four games, Pitkanen has not registered a point while paired with White (his two assists came on the last-second, game-tying goal by Eric Staal against Washington and Brandon Sutter’s OT tally against the Avs) and the team has just seven goals. Should Maurice at least explore playing White and Pitkanen with someone different?
4. Jeff Skinner’s third-period goal against the Avs was a memorable one, with the rookie dancing around the Colorado net, shooting, gathering a rebound with a kick to his skate, and roofing a shot past Craig Anderson. At times, Skinner could be accused of trying to do too much on his own, but he showed exactly what he's capable of on the play. Here's another look:
5. In the second period against Nashville, Carolina had a chance to tie the game with the man advantage after Jordin Tootoo was called for slashing, but the power play was unable to convert. That was arguably the low point of the team’s recent woes with the extra man. After scoring three power play goals against Boston, the Hurricanes have not converted with the man advantage the past four games. That's a stretch of 13 power plays without a goal, which has dropped the Canes to 15.8 percent on the season (19th in the NHL).