The Carolina Hurricanes (18-11-1, 37 pts) kick off a five-game road trip tonight when they face the Edmonton Oilers (18-10-4, 40 pts). It’s the first meeting of the year between the two teams; Carolina won both games against the Oilers last season.
The Canes roll into Edmonton following back-to-back wins in Raleigh. A 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday saw Sebastian Aho post a career-best five-point night. The 22-year-old Finn recorded his third career hat trick and added two assists for good measure.
With the offense rolling (11 goals over the last 2 games), the Canes will attempt to keep their defense on track. They’ve held their opponents to two goals in each of the previous four games, losing only once, a 2-0 shutout in Boston.
The goalie in that shutout loss? James Reimer. Notwithstanding the loss — which can hardly be blamed on Reimer (He held the Bruins scoreless for 50-plus minutes) — the 31-year-old has been playing great. He’s made 30 or more saves in all but one of his last four outings. The only exception was a 19-save shutout against the Detroit Red Wings — so yeah, he’s red-hot.
Adding to the positive vibes, the Canes should get one of their best players back from the injury list. Rookie Martin Necas looks poised to return to the lineup. Necas and his much needed right-handed shot will bring some balance to the second power play unit, where Brett Pesce has been filling in for him. On the bad news front, Erik Haula has not made the trip out west; the center continues to rehab from a knee injury. Julien Gauthier was recalled from Charlotte and should skate on the fourth line as Jordan Martinook handles the 4th line Center duties.
Here’s how the Canes are expected to take the ice:
Nino Niederreiter - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Andrei Svechnikov - Jordan Staal - Warren Foegele
Ryan Dzingel - Lucas Wallmark - Martin Necas
Brock McGinn - Jordan Martinook - Julien Gauthier
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Joel Edmundson - Brett Pesce
Jake Gardiner - Trevor van Riemsdyk
Injuries and Scratches: Erik Haula (knee), Haydn Fleury (healthy)
The Edmonton Oilers are full of contradictions. They lead the Pacific Division; they boast two — two! — players that have already reached 50 points this year. Yet, they’re a collective minus-73 at even strength. For comparison, the Canes are plus-23.
Needless to say, the Oilers’ special teams are what make up the difference here. Their powerplay is tops in the league, with a sizzling 32.3% conversion rate. Their penalty kill ranks second at 87%.
Those two 50-point scorers — Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl — will clearly need to be contained. Still, like the rest of the Oilers, they do most of their damage on the power play. Obviously, staying out of the box will be crucial for the Canes.
In net, Mikko Koskinen (11-3-2, .921 SV%, 2.53 GAA) should get the nod.
Here’s how the Oilers are expected to take the ice:
Joakim Nygard - Connor McDavid - Zack Kassian
Jujhar Khaira - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Leon Draisaitl
James Neal - Gaetan Haas - Alex Chiasson
Markus Granlund - Riley Sheahan - Josh Archibald
Darnell Nurse - Ethan Bear
Oscar Klefbom - Adam Larsson
Kris Russell - Caleb Jones
Injuries and Scratches: none