After struggling in the two previous meeting this season against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Carolina Hurricanes look to begin the post-All Star break schedule with a big victory against their Eastern Conference wildcard rival. The Flyers went through an extended poor run (3-9-3), but finished the season’s first half with three straight victories to right their ship somewhat. The Canes will look to begin to do the same thing against the Flyers, limping into the break with a five-game losing streak.
The Flyers enter Raleigh relatively healthy, with only Michael Del Zotto questionable for tonight’s game. The Flyers’ three-game turnaround was led by their defense and goaltending, as they have not scored more than three goals in any of the past six games.
Over the course of the season, however, the Flyers have been led by their offensive punch, including Jakub Voracek (44 points), Claude Giroux (40 points), and newly-minted All-Star Game MVP Wayne Simmonds (38 points). While they recently have improved on the blueline and in the net, overall the Flyers still are 27th worst in goals allowed with 155 goals allowed in 50 games.
With the Flyers currently in the second wild card spot with 56 points, and the Canes sitting at 49 points, this game is imperative in terms of staying in touch with the possibility of making the playoffs. A loss would set the Canes nine points out of the last spot, and with at least six other teams to jump. As important as this game is for the Canes, it is just as important for the Flyers, as they know how bunched together the fight for the final spot is.
In terms of special teams, the Canes’ beleaguered power play will have an opportunity to take on a below average penalty kill as the Flyers sit at 17th in the league. On the other end, the top-rated Canes penalty kill will be tested by a top-ten power play with the Flyers, including the NHL leader in power play goals in Brayden Schenn (11 power play goals).
While there may be plenty of season remaining for each of these teams, the tight race in the Eastern Conference necessitates that each team truly bear down on their division and conference opponents the rest of the way.
What to Watch For
- Despite the good run to finish the pre-break schedule, the Flyers are rated 29th in the league in save percentage in the NHL. The Canes need to get pucks to the net early and often against the Flyers.
- Expect Steve Mason to be in goal for the Flyers to begin the sprint to the finish. Mason was in net for the 6-3 Flyers win in Philadelphia on October 23. He is 8-3-1 in his career against the Canes.
- On the power play, look to see what adjustments the Canes may make with their units. Puck movement was lacking recently, so it will be interesting to see if substantial adjustments are made. Will chances be provided to players such as Joakim Nordstrom or Brock McGinn?
- The Flyers and Hurricanes are each top-ten faceoff percentage teams. Winning big defensive zone faceoffs will be key for the Canes, to make establishing the strong net-front presence which the Flyers offense seems to thrive on with the likes of Simmonds parking in front of the net.