CALGARY, AB -- The Carolina Hurricanes went into the 2016 NHL All-Star break with a ton of momentum, winning their final two games and outscoring their opponents 10-2 in the process.
Now, the challenge is sustaining that energy.
With 54 points on the year, the Hurricanes are just two points out of a playoff spot in the NHL's Metropolitan Division but have to contend with the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils, who both have 55 points as of Feb. 1.
They are hoping they can maintain the pace they showed in their final game before the break against Chicago.
"We knew it was going to be a big game," Riley Nash told CarolinaHurricanes.com after their 5-0 win over the Blackhawks. "They’re one of the best teams and they have been for the past six or seven years. We knew it was a big test, a good measuring stick to see where we’re at. We’re slowly but surely climbing up the standings, and we know we need to have a big second half to get in the playoffs."
The Hurricanes will have veteran netminder Cam Ward back in the fold this week. He was activated from the injured reserve late last month and Daniel Altshuller was re-assigned to Charlotte Checkers.
However, they will be missing defenceman Brett Pesce. The 21-year-old was recently placed on the injured reserve with a lower body malady. In response, Carolina has recalled blueliner Ryan Murphy from Charlotte, along with forward Phil Di Giuseppe.
BREAKING DOWN THE HURRICANES
Power Play: 16.7 percent overall (26 goals scored in 156 chances with the man advantage), 15.2 percent on the road (12 goals scored in 79 chances with the man advantage)
Penalty Kill: 82.5 percent overall (22 goals allowed in 126 times being short-handed), 77 percent on the road (14 goals allowed in 61 times being short-handed)
2015-16 Record vs. the Flames: 1-0-0
2014-15 Record vs. the Flames: 1-1-0
Notable Injuries: Brett Pesce (lower body), James Wisniewski (ACL)
Who's HOT: Kris Versteeg
The Lethbridge, AB product has scored two goals and three points in his last two skates, including a two-goal performance against the Flames on Jan. 24 in Raleigh. Versteeg, who was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks last September, is now second in team scoring with 10 goals and 31 points through 50 games this season.
The 29-year-old is a plus-three on the year, which ranks second among Carolina skaters.
Honourable Mention: Jeff Skinner
The left winger has three points in his last two games and is coming off a two-point performance in a 5-0 Carolina win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 26. The 23-year-old generates plenty of shots on net and in his last four games, he has put 20 shots on opposition netminders. His 144 shots on net this year ranks second on the team.
In 51 games this year, Skinner has 18 goals and 28 points.
Who's NOT: Jay McClement
McClement has dressed for 50 games this year but has been limited to one goal and six points. His 2.40 shooting percentage ranks last among Carolina forwards and he's a minus-12 on the year.
The veteran center has one point since Dec. 8.