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Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing the Blackhawks, Flyers, Panthers, and Red Wings

The Canes look to continue their winning streak with a busy four-game week.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Chicago Blackhawks David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Blackhawks

Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. at United Center

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

A busy week for the Carolina Hurricanes begins on Tuesday in the Windy City as the Canes visit the Blackhawks to wrap up their two-game season series. Since their initial meeting on October 26th, the Blackhawks have gone on a bit of a run, tallying points in 9 of their past 11 games (7-2-2). The offense has led the charge as they have scored 21 goals in their most recent four-game winning streak. Patrick Kane has gone on his first hot streak of the season as he has scored in six consecutive games. After struggling on the offensive end for much of the early going of the season, the sudden burst has renewed hopes in Chicago that the Hawks can become a playoff team yet again.

While the recent turnaround has been led by an offensive burst, the Blackhawks have mostly sustained themselves on a solid defensive effort that has been backed well by their biggest offseason acquisition, Robin Lehner in net. Posting a .936 save percentage in 10 starts, Lehner has shared the net with Corey Crawford. The two have combined to post a .926 save percentage, and the Hawks have posted the sixth-best defense in the league to date.

If the Blackhawks are to remain relevant in the Western Conference, they will need to have secondary scoring continue to develop beyond Kane, Alex DeBrincat and Brandon Saad. If they cannot get a resurgence from Jonathan Toews and Andrew Shaw among others, the Hawks will continue to put significant stress on their goaltending and top line scoring.

Philadelphia Flyers

Thursday, 7:00 p.m. at PNC Arena

NHL: New York Islanders at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Flyers will head to PNC Arena to return the visit the Canes placed to Philly earlier this month. For more detail on the 2019-20 roster and outlook for the Flyers, check out Behind Enemy Lines from less than two weeks ago before the initial tilt in Philly.

The Flyers’ win over the Canes sparked a four-game winning streak, which was immediately followed by a three-game losing streak. Currently sitting just one point behind the Canes for the third spot in the Metro Division, the Flyers have positioned themselves as a major part of the fight for a postseason spot in a very competitive division.

While the Flyers are sitting mostly in the middle of the pack or towards the top one-third in a number of statistical categories, one area the Flyers will need to get a difference making performance is in net. Carter Hart was viewed by many as the most exciting young goalie in the NHL after his exciting debut last season. Thus far this season though, he has posted an ordinary .903 save percentage in 12 starts. Despite allowing the sixth-fewest shots in the entire league, the Flyers sit at 13th in terms of goals against. If the Flyers defense continues to suppress shots, a better performance in net should provide a significant boost to the Flyers as they try to stay in the fight within the Metro.

For the Canes to come away with a win against the Flyers, they will need to fight harder to earn the tough real estate on the ice than they did in the initial meeting. After blowing a third period lead in Philly, the Canes know they must put together a 60 minute effort in order to even the ledger against their division rival.

Florida Panthers

Saturday, 7:00 p.m. at PNC Arena

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Florida Panthers Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers have continued to push towards the top of the Atlantic Division with the unexpected struggles of the Tampa Bay Lightning and recent troubles of the Toronto Maple Leafs. New head coach Joel Quenneville has been able to put together a winning team despite the serious struggles of free agent acquisition Sergei Bobrovsky, who has posted a dismal .882 save percentage in 16 starts, averaging just over three and a half goals per game (3.53).

The Panthers have been able to overcome Bobrovsky’s struggles by producing the second-best offense in the league to date, led by incredible starts from Jonathan Huberdeau (27 points) and Aleksander Barkov (25 points) in the first 20 games. The offensive firepower goes throughout the lineup as Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman have each notched five power play goals, and the speed and skill has been unleashed as the Panthers have participated in a number of high-octane contests.

In order to maintain a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, the Panthers will likely need Bobrovsky and the defense to tighten up significantly, but the outburst from the offense appears to be something that could be fairly sustainable. With a top power play unit in tow, the Panthers could be one of the more dangerous teams in the NHL if Bobrovsky returns to his previous form.

The matchup against the Canes is particularly interesting as the Panthers are one of the teams that can match the speed that Carolina possesses. In order for the Canes to have success against the Panthers, they must first stay out of the penalty box. Matching up lines may not be as important at home for Rod Brind’Amour against such a deep team, but expect the Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho lines to get significant play even in the first of a back-to-back on Saturday. If both teams bring the intensity that they are capable of bringing, expect one of the more entertaining contests of the season as two high-quality teams bring a fast-paced style of play to the table on Saturday night.

Detroit Red Wings

Sunday, 7:00 p.m. at Little Caesars Arena

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Anaheim Ducks Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

While the Red Wings are on a two game losing streak, they have tallied points in each of their last five games. Sitting at just 17 points on the season, the Wings are currently in the basement of the Eastern Conference, and the Wings’ stats don’t do anything to improve the outlook. They sit 29th in goals scored with just 51, and dead last in defense (82 goals allowed), as the Wings continue their rebuild in earnest while battling the Senators to stay out of the Atlantic Division cellar.

The offense in Detroit runs basically directly through Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Dylan Larkin, a trio that has scored 25 of the 51 goals for the entire team. Further down the roster, the scoring has simply not been there for the Wings, while the defensive work has been a struggle all around.

While the work in goal from the tandem of Jonathan Bernier and Jimmy Howard has been less than stellar (.888 save percentage), the defensive work has left plenty to be desired, specifically with the penalty kill. At just 70% on the penalty kill, the Wings are dead last in the league, having yielded 20 goals on the man advantage. If the Canes can get on the power play, their should be a number of opportunities to capitalize against a struggling penalty kill.

With both teams on a back-to-back, the Canes will not be at a significant energy disadvantage on their trip to the Motor City as they look to beat the Wings for the second time this season. If the Canes can produce quality effort and engagement, they should be able to put a positive finish on what is sure to be a very busy week.