The Carolina Hurricanes’ schedule gantlet, mercifully, comes to its conclusion tonight at PNC Arena.
Over the past two-plus weeks, the Hurricanes have faced the cream of the NHL crop with very little respite: ten games in 18 days, including three sets of back to backs. Tonight is the Canes’ ninth game of their past 10 that has come against a projected playoff team, and they are 4-4-1 so far in that stretch. Given the opposition and the game frequency, it could be better, but it’s absolutely understandable.
The tenth game of that stretch comes tonight, when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit Raleigh for the final time this season, and with a win the Hurricanes can cap off a season sweep over their former division rivals.
- The Hurricanes have won both of the previous matchups against the Lightning this season, on November 3 in Tampa in a shootout, and earlier this month at PNC in a 6-0 romp. Teuvo Teravainen scored a hat trick in the March 5 game as the Hurricanes went 4-for-5 on the power play.
- In the two-game stretch at Arizona on 3/3 and home to Tampa on 3/5, the Canes were 7-for-9 with the extra skater. Since then, in 11 games, they are, uh, 3-for 24.
- The suddenly reeling Lightning have nothing to worry about in terms of playoff qualification, but their chances of home ice advantage in the first round are quickly dwindling. They’ve lost four games in a row, their first such losing streak of the year, and sit seven points behind Toronto for second in the Atlantic while giving up a game in hand to the Leafs.
- You could be forgiven, looking at the schedule, for thinking that the Hurricanes have actually changed divisions for the final two weeks of the season. They are essentially done with the Metro now, with only a game Sunday against the Islanders remaining, while they have eight games remaining against Atlantic Division opponents.
- Only once before have the Hurricanes swept a season series with the Lightning. That was back in 2008-09, when the Canes went 6-0 against Tampa.
- Brady Skjei’s goal on Sunday against the Bruins was his 16th of the season, and he now sits two behind Dougie Hamilton for the post-1997 team lead in goals by a defenseman in a season, with ten games remaining.