SB Nation Rival Blog: Jewels From The Crown
Hurricanes Record: 26-24-9 | 61 pts | 7th Metro | 13th EC
Kings Record: 33-22-6 | 72 pts | 3rd Pacific | 7th WC
Games Remaining: 23
Minimum Points Needed: 91
Points Back: 30 (1.30 points/game)
Playoff Chances (Sports Club Stats): 11.3%
The Hurricanes resume their five game road trip today against the L.A. Kings. This is the second game of the season between the two teams and completes their regular season series. The Kings won 2-1 in a shootout in Raleigh on October 11th.
The Kings have been solid in their playoff quest all season, suffering through a small skid after the clock turned to 2014 but winning their last three games, one before the Olympic break and two more since their return. They played back-to-back games on the road against the Avalanche and Flames on Wednesday and Thursday before returning to L.A. Today with the early start they will be playing their third game in less than four days.
The narrative on the Kings is that they can't score. They are ranked 27th in the league in goals per game, and 27th on the power play. They play an offensively conservative game and rely on strong goaltending and dominating possession to be successful, and lead the league with the least goals allowed per game, rank 3rd in shots allowed per game, and 6th in five-on-five goal differential. And despite their challenges generating offense, they've scored eight goals goals in their last two games.
The Kings' Olympians have been on a roll since their return from Sochi. Anze Kopitar, the team's leading scorer, had a three-point night against the Avalanche. Right behind him, Jeff Carter had two points in the same game. Carter is a point-per-game player against the Canes with 25 goals in 25 career games. Dustin Brown had a goal and assist in the win against Calgary.
Martin Jones and Jonathan Quick split the back-to-back games in net, and Quick will likely get the start again today. Quick was the winning goaltender for the shootout win in October, his only career start against the Canes.
The Hurricanes begin the month of March five points out of the playoff picture, with at least four teams to leap to get there. They are five points behind Philadelphia for the final Metro Division spot and seven points behind Detroit for the last Eastern Conference wild card spot. They limped out of Dallas after a lackluster performance resulted in a 4-1 loss to the Stars. Since the return from the Olympic break, they've scored three goals, given up seven, and are minus -2 for 10 on the power play (giving up two shorthanded goals to Dallas on Thursday).
On a positive note, the Canes are actually 2-0-1 against their next three opponents season-to-date. And, in their last six back-to-back games, the Canes are 6-0-0 in their first game.
Alexander Semin left Thursday's game early after taking a hit along the boards, tried to return but could not due to a lower body concern, and will continue to be evaluated over the next several days.
With Semin's absence, and with an attempt to spark some offense, Kirk Muller shuffled the lines yesterday at practice. Rookie Elias Lindholm took Semin's place on Eric Staal's line with Jiri Tlusty, and Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu were moved to Jordan Staal's line. If the lines from yesterday stay intact (there's no morning skate today with the early start), the lineup should look as follows:
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Elias Lindholm
Jeff Skinner - Jordan Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Drayson Bowman - Riley Nash - Radek Dvorak
Nathan Gerbe - Manny Malhotra - Patrick Dwyer
Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk
Ron Hainsey - John-Michael Liles
Jay Harrison - Brett Bellemore
It's expected that Anton Khudobin and Cam Ward will split duties during the back-to-back, although the assignments aren't confirmed and likely won't be known until team warmups. Khudobin has not previously faced the Kings. Cam Ward is 2-0-2 with a 1.69 GAA in four career games.
Michael Smith recapped the short month of February and set the stage for March in the Canes' February 2014 Monthly report [CH.com].
Team USA Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner will drop the puck today. Note the early start time and broadcast stations. We'll have the game thread open and ready to roll by 3:30 pm. See you there.