2019 was one of the best years ever for the Carolina Hurricanes franchise. 2020, on the other hand, has...um, not gotten off to a great start.
The Hurricanes (24-16-2, 50pts) have lost two straight to begin the calendar year. To make matters worse, both games were against Eastern Conference opponents, teams that the Hurricanes need to beat to help secure a second straight playoff appearance.
Tonight, Carolina gets a third opportunity to secure points in the standings and, just as important, deny points to a playoff competitor.
To do that, the top players will need to get some help. Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Dougie Hamilton are all having fantastic years — career years in some cases. But for the Canes to get back to winning regularly, veterans like Nino Niederreiter and Jake Gardiner need to play better.
Nino has only five goals, with half the season gone; he finished last year with 23. His 28 penalty minutes are tied for third-highest on the team. His nightly inclusion in the top-six is warranted given his salary, but not by his recent play.
Jake Gardiner is another vet that needs to take steps forward for the team to improve. He currently has nine points with a plus/minus rating of -21. He trails Jaccob Slavin (21), Brett Pesce (15), and even Joel Edmundson (10) in points.
Petr Mrazek has started all four games on the current homestand. James Reimer hasn’t started at PNC Arena since November 2nd and hasn’t played at all since December 27th. Who starts? Unclear as of this writing, but I’d guess Reimer.
How the Canes take the ice:
Nino Niederreiter - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Andrei Svechnikov - Jordan Staal - Warren Foegele
Ryan Dzingel - Erik Haula - Martin Necas
Brock McGinn - Lucas Wallmark - Jordan Martinook
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Jake Gardiner - Brett Pesce
Joel Edmundson - Haydn Fleury
Injuries and Scratches: Trevor van Riemsdyk (healthy)
If the Canes are going to pick up a win tonight, it will need to come against a team that’s already beaten them twice this season: the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers (22-15-5, 49pts) have been struggling recently too. They’re 1-4 over their last five. They’ve been solid against their division opponents though; they’re 7-2-2 within the Metro.
As has been the case for many years, Claude Giroux (13g, 17a) is the player to watch when facing the Flyers. Giroux has already lit up the Canes in the two prior meetings this season with three goals and three assists.
In net, Brian Elliott (9-5-2, .899 sv%, 3.05 gaa) gets the start. Elliott is coming off two straight sub-60 minute efforts, one where he was lifted early and one where he was the mid-game replacement for Carter Hart. The Flyers lost both games. The Canes should look to shoot early and often on a goaltender who might be fighting it.
How the Flyers will take the ice:
Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny
James Van Riemsdyk - Kevin Hayes - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Tyler Pitlick - Michael Raffl - Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton - Mikhail Vorobyev - Joel Farabee
Ivan Provorov - Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim - Philippe Myers
Robert Hagg - Shayne Gostisbehere
Injuries and Scratches: Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder), Oskar Lindblom (Ewing’s sarcoma), Justin Braun (groin)