Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. at PNC Arena
The Carolina Hurricanes enter the week and the final three games of a seven-game homestand having lost five of their last seven contests. They will look to turn the tide against an opponent they have struggled with this season as the Philadelphia Flyers come calling for the third time this year.
The Flyers come to town right on the heels of the Canes in the standings, positioned just one point behind Carolina. However, the Flyers enter play Tuesday on a bit of a skid of their own as they have dropped their previous three games, yielding 16 goals in the process.
Philadelphia has firmly landed in the middle of the pack both offensively and defensively on the season, having scored four more goals than they have allowed to date. The biggest step forward has been taken by Travis Konecny, who leads the team with 36 points and is on pace to breeze past his previous career high in total points.
In the previous two contests between the teams, Claude Giroux has led the Flyers with six total points as he continues what has been a pretty nice career against the Canes (43 points in 42 career games). In order for the Canes to have a chance against the Flyers, they simply must figure out a way to corral the Flyer captain. The Flyers have also scored on the man advantage in each contest, which reinforces how much the Canes need to clean up their penalty kill.
The Flyers have given the Canes trouble, but the numbers indicate they are about as middle-of-the-pack of a team that you will find in the league. If the Canes are serious about returning to the postseason, turning around their struggles against the division rival they are competing with for a playoff spot will be an important step.
Friday, 7:30 p.m. at PNC Arena
After seven consecutive non-playoff seasons, the Arizona Coyotes have once again emerged as a postseason contender in the Pacific Division. Sitting in second place, just two points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the division lead, the Yotes finally seem to have broken through with a top notch defensive effort, and a group of young, exciting forwards.
This defensive-based turnaround could be in a bit of trouble at the moment, though. The backbone of the Coyotes’ improvement, their goaltending, has taken a bit of a hit recently with top netminders Darcy Kuemper (lower body) and Antti Raanta (lower body) dealing with injuries at the moment. Who will step into the fray if Raanta cannot return immediately (Kuemper is already on IR) is anyone’s guess at the moment and could play a pivotal role in Friday’s contest.
Offensively, the Yotes are still paced by two early 20’s forwards, Clayton Keller (32 points) and Nick Schmaltz (35 points), but certainly received a pair of needed veteran boosts with the trades for Phil Kessel in the offseason and Taylor Hall in December. The noted hot dog connoisseur has been able to provide 24 points in the desert thus far, as the structure and style of the Coyotes has slowly morphed under the watchful eye of coach Rick Tocchet.
The Coyotes certainly appear to be a strong contender to return to the playoffs, but the current cloud hanging over the goaltending situation may require work at the trade deadline. Perhaps the expected forward depth that they would have been in the market for has to become insurance in net? Regardless, the Coyotes have reason to feel good about their path and the work they have done to this point. We must wait now to see what 2020 has in store.
Saturday, 7:00 p.m. at PNC Arena
The Hurricanes will morph, for one night, into the Hartford Whalers on Saturday night as they take on the L.A. Kings.
The Kings head to Raleigh for their only visit squarely in the cellar of the Pacific Division. Losers of five of their past seven (2-4-1), the Kings have continued with the goal-scoring troubles they experienced a season ago. Ranking just 27th in the league in offense, the Kings have been led in scoring by mainstays from their championship days: Anze Kopitar (37 points), Drew Doughty (26 points), and Tyler Toffoli (24 points) are the top three in points.
Recently, the Kings have begun what could be a significant exodus. Ilya Kovalchuk was waived in December and has now joined the Montreal Canadiens. What the market might be for players such as Jonathan Quick (34 years old, .894 save percentage in 28 starts) remains to be seen. Anyone else that has any value may be available for trade, as the Kings look to officially move on from their best era of the franchise in search of a reboot.
Early this season during the Canes’ prosperous western road trip, the Canes blanked the Kings 2-0 at Staples Center. If the Canes are to get back to their tighter, harder defensive work, they will need to make sure the top line for the Kings is blanketed and force LA’s depth to produce the offense that they have struggled to provide all season.