CALGARY, AB -- Things have tightened up considerably in the Eastern Conference and, despite going 6-4-2 since losing 2-1 to the Calgary Flames in overtime on Dec. 12, the Carolina Hurricanes have taken a step back.
The Hurricanes, who held down eighth in the East before losing to the Flames in December, have dropped to 12th. The good news in Carolina, though, is that they sit just four points back of the Washington Capitals for second in the Metropolitan Division. The bad news is that they need to leapfrog three other teams to get there.
With points at a premium before the National Hockey League yields to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the Flames will meet a hungry bunch in Carolina.
This Season: 19-17-9, 47 points (12th in East)
Last season: 19-25-4, 42 points (13th in East)
Injuries: Jiri Tlusty (appendectomy) is expected to play Monday against Calgary. Centre Riley Nash (lower body) has been
activated off IR and is expected to return to the lineup after missing five games, too. Defenceman Joni Pitkanen (heel) and goalie Cam Ward (lower body) are on IR.
Flames Season Series Record: 1-0-0
Skinner has been on a lengthy tear. The 21-year-old has 10 goals since potting one against the Flames a little over a month ago, including seven in his past six games. Though his point-scoring streak was halted at six games by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, Skinner still holds a share of the team lead at 35 with Eric Staal, who has played eight more games.
Though he’s third overall in team scoring and first among defencemen with seven goals and 24 points, Sekera has found it difficult to get on the score sheet of late. The 27-year-old has just one assist in his past five outings. The good news, though, is that he’s still a plus-4 for Carolina over that stretch.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
After missing three games with a lower body injury, Staal looks ready to return to the Hurricanes lineup and is expected to skate alongside Skinner and Alexander Semin. Staal, who leads Carolina with 25 assists, had five points in two games before bowing out with his injury midway through Carolina’s Jan 4 game against the New York Islanders.
Khudobin has been stellar of late for the Hurricanes. The 27-year-old former Saskatoon Blades keeper is 6-1-0 this season with a 2.00 goals against average and .936 save percentage. His only loss this season came Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Lindholm, who missed a month of action after taking a Mark Giordano hit back on Dec. 11, didn’t skip a beat in his return on Jan. 9, recording a goal and two assists. The fifth overall pick in 2013 now has four goals and 10 points in 23 games this season.