All of a sudden, Rod Brind'Amour and the Carolina Hurricanes appear primed to defend their Stanley Cup title.
Brind'Amour looks to extend his goal and points streaks while helping the Hurricanes to their fifth win in six games Saturday when they host the Dallas Stars.
After winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup in June, Carolina (11-7-3) opened the 2006-07 season with four consecutive defeats in which it was outscored 18-7 and Brind'Amour failed to register a point.
The captain has 10 goals and 20 assists in the last 17 games, though, as the Hurricanes have gone 10-4-2 to make the poor start an increasingly distant memory. Brind'Amour scored two goals and added a pair of assists Friday as Carolina beat the Washington Capitals 4-1.
"We definitely feel better the way we've been playing of late," said Brind'Amour, who has at least one point in all 11 Carolina victories. "We've got to keep it up, because we're not where we want to be yet."
Brind'Amour has two impressive individual streaks going, as he has scored a goal in four straight games and has six goals and six assists during his seven-game points streak. The Hurricanes are 5-1-1 over that span.
Erik Cole also factored in every score Friday, tallying the first goal of the game on the power play before assisting on both of Brind'Amour's goals and a third-period marker by Ray Whitney. It was the fifth multipoint game of November for Cole, who has five goals and 10 assists in nine contests this month.
Carolina outshot Washington 29-22 and has put at least as many shots on net as its opponents in eight straight games.
"It can grind teams down and wear them down a little bit, having to play in their end," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "Over the course of time, we can get the results we want."
While the Hurricanes have rebounded after a season-opening losing streak, the Stars (13-5-0) have slowed down after a fast start. Dallas opened the season with 11 wins in 13 games, but had dropped three of four before beating the Atlanta Thrashers 5-3 on Friday.
Mike Ribeiro scored two first-period goals, while Patrik Stefan added a goal and two assists for his first points of the season. It was especially meaningful for Stefan, who was the first overall pick by the Thrashers in 1999 and spent six seasons with them before being traded to Dallas last offseason.
"Stefan was the spark we needed tonight," Stars coach Dave Tippett said.
"It's a special feeling when you come back to your former team. I'm sure he wanted to come back and play well, and that's what he did."
Stefan had six goals and five assists in 29 career games versus Carolina while playing for the Southeast Division rival Thrashers.
Dallas has won the last three meetings between the teams. The Hurricanes have not beaten the Stars since a 1-0 victory Dec. 22, 2002, at Dallas.