If special teams are going to make a difference, the Carolina Hurricanes are aiming to get better in those areas.
They’re bound to come up again when the Montreal Canadiens visit for Thursday night’s game in Raleigh, N.C.
The Canadiens have won three games in a row since returning from the All-Star break, outscoring their opponents 14-5 during that stretch. Carolina is 1-1-0 since its layoff.
Montreal is coming off Tuesday night’s 4-0 victory against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.
“Just trying to stay sharp here as we’re moving forward,” said Canadiens goalie Jake Allen, who stopped 22 shots in the shutout. “Keep this ball rolling. Three wins in a row, it has been a while since that has happened here.”
The Hurricanes edged the host Washington Capitals 3-2 on Tuesday night, scoring the tiebreaking goal on their only power-play chance of the game.
“Take the win and move on,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I thought (Saturday’s) game was better than (Tuesday’s) game.”
But the Hurricanes can’t be picky at this time in terms of gaining another two points. They killed all three Washington power plays, but Brind’Amour doesn’t want that ratio of power-play opportunities and penalty-killing assignments for his team to continue.
“We’ve got to do a better job of either drawing penalties or staying out of the box,” he said.
Getting goalie Frederik Andersen up to form is one of the priorities for Carolina and steps might have been taken in that category. He stopped 34 Washington shots.
Thursday night’s game will come just two nights before a Stadium Series game for the Hurricanes against the Washington Capitals. That event will take place basically across the parking lot from the arena.
But while the setup for the stadium game is ongoing and the buzz is growing, the Hurricanes have other on-ice matters to address first.
“We’re not focusing on that yet,” Brind’Amour said.
This will be the first of three meetings between the Canadiens and Hurricanes. Montreal might receive a different kind of test in dealing with fast-paced Carolina.
“Our toughest task is going to be on Thursday,” said Allen, who recorded his first shutout of the season in the game against Chicago.
For Montreal, defenseman Mike Matheson has come through for key contributions in 20 games with the team.
“It seems like he doesn’t get tired on the ice,” coach Martin St. Louis said. “He constantly has that top gear. He’s tough to play against because he defends with his feet. I knew he was a good skater. I didn’t know he was that good of a skater.”
It’s not all rosy for the Canadiens, who’ve announced that defenseman Arber Xhekaj will be out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. He has five goals and eight assists in 51 games before missing Tuesday night’s action. He has a team-high 159 hits.
This is the beginning of a four-game road stretch for the Canadiens, who were 1-3-0 on the road in January and haven’t ventured away from home yet in February.
The Hurricanes are 17-6-2 at home and they’ve lost consecutive home games only twice, and one of those involved overtime. They will try to avoid a third time Thursday night.
–Field Level Media