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Game Analysis: Hurricanes Split Back-To-Back Games

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A night after putting away the reeling Toronto Maple Leafs, the Carolina Hurricanes were stymied by the New Jersey Devils’ patented shutdown defense in splitting games on back-to-back nights.

Jaromir Jagr and Jay McClement could both be dealt at the trade deadline.
Jaromir Jagr and Jay McClement could both be dealt at the trade deadline.
Elsa/Getty Images

The Hurricanes got a look at two different kinds of teams this weekend: one that is resigned to a season out of the playoffs, and another that thinks it still has a chance to reach the postseason. Carolina played their role fittingly, topping struggling Toronto Friday, 2-1, then falling to New Jersey 3-1 the next night.

Three Observations

1. Anton Khudobin’s season has seemingly reverted to earlier this campaign when even on nights when he played well he was victimized by defensive breakdowns that led to breakaways and grade-A chances. Such was the case Saturday when New Jersey capitalized on early mistakes to jump out to a 3-0 lead that Carolina couldn't rebound from. Khudobin deserves better, but right now it seems like the Canes can't help but make mistakes when he's between the pipes.

2. Eric and Jordan Staal showed the importance of net traffic Friday, both earning deflection goals to power the Hurricanes past Toronto. That wasn't as evident Saturday, with Carolina chasing the play after getting behind early and getting sucked into New Jersey’s predictable trapping game. While Carolina has developed an identity as a hard-working team with an excellent penalty kill, they are still looking for consistency at five-on-five. I would expect Andrej Nestrasil to get an expanded role after the trade deadline because his down-low cycling game gives his line a definitive style.

3. Bill Peters’ trend of pulling the goalie early continues. The Devils were unable to capitalize on Carolina’s empty net in more than four minutes of time with Khudobin on the bench, but the Hurricanes also couldn't dent Corey Schneider. There was no harm in trying it Saturday, down two goals and grasping for life in a lifeless game, but Peters will certainly raise eyebrows if he uses it in one-goal games during a playoff race. It will be curious to see if Peters’ philosophy will change if the circumstances do.

Number To Know

0 — Shots on goal for the Toronto power play in eight full minutes withe the man advantage. The Hurricanes now have the NHL’s top penalty kill at 87.8 percent and have allowed just 18 power play goals.

Plus

Cam Ward — Ward came up big early against Toronto, his 499th career game, then settled in to earn his fourth win in five games. Ward's 2.39 goals-against average is the best of his career, and his .913 save percentage is a return to the form that made him a five-time 30 game winner.

Minus

John-Michael Liles — Liles was directly involved in the breakdowns that led to New Jersey’s second and third goals Saturday, turning the puck over to allow Adam Henrique a breakaway, then get caught too high and allowing a pass to get behind him on Andy Greene’s goal. He also had one of Carolina’s four penalties against the Leafs.