Carolina earned three of four points over the weekend, losing in the shootout to Pittsburgh Friday, then walloping the Islanders Saturday.
1. Justin Faulk missed both games due to an injury sustained in practice, but the defense looked solid even without its best player. No one upped his game more than Noah Hanifin, who scored Saturday after nearly notching a goal the night before on an end-to-end rush that looked like a flash forward to the greatness that is to come from the 19-year-old rookie. After seeing Bret Hedican still cruising around the ice effortlessly Sunday at the Alumni Game, it became obvious Hanifin’s smooth stride is the best to patrol the Carolina blue line since No. 6 was helping the Canes win a Cup in 2006.
2. Perhaps no one made a bigger impact on Carolina’s weekend games than Phil Di Giuseppe. With the Hurricanes struggling to produce offense against the Penguins, coach Bill Peters swapped Elias Lindholm and Di Giuseppe, putting the rookie with Eric Staal and Kris Versteeg. It didn't pay dividends Friday (though Di Giuseppe did finish with five hits), but Saturday the young forward was a force. His cross-ice pass to Versteeg for the Hurricanes’ third goal was right on the money, and he created Victor Rask’s second goal of the night with his forechecking.
3. Cam Ward got the start both nights, earning the nod Saturday after he stood on his head the night before during three-on-three overtime. But Ward didn't make it out of the second period vs. New York after suffering a lower body injury. The chances of Ward being dealt prior to the trade deadline were already slim, but his recent injury issues add another hurdle to the equation.
Number To Know
6 — Carolina players who have between 30 and 34 points. Faulk leads the team with 34, while Jordan Staal and Rask — who each had two points against the Islanders — are just one behind at 33. Jeff Skinner and Versteeg have 32, while Eric Staal has 30.
Andrej Nestrasil — With his mother and grandmother seeing him play live in the NHL for the first time, Nestrasil put on a show. He scored late Friday to tie the game and give Carolina a point Friday, then scored again Saturday (he was originally also credited with the Hurricanes’ second goal, but it was later changed to Noah Hanifin) in the rout over the Isles. He has four goals in his last four games and continues to dominate with linemates Jordan Staal and Joakim Nordstrom.
Eric Staal — The captain was held off the scoresheet both nights and has no points in his last five games. Staal’s last goal was more than a month ago (Jan. 12), a 12-game stretch, and he won just nine of 26 faceoffs over the weekend. One can't help but wonder if his uncertain future with the team is weighing on him.