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After Successful Weekend, Canes Face Stiff Test on Road

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
How was your weekend?

For the Carolina Hurricanes, it was pretty good.

It began on Saturday with a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens, the top team in the Eastern Conference and the second-best team in the National Hockey League. Jeff Skinner scored two goals and Cam Ward made 36 saves on 38 shots.

“It’s big no matter what perspective you put it in. We needed to win,” head coach Bill Peters said after the game. “We didn’t play very well our last time out, and we needed to bounce back. We did bounce back, and that’s a credit to the guys.”

“It was great. I thought we were engaged right away, and it was a pretty even game back and forth," Eric Staal said. “It was a good hockey game and tight going into the third. I liked our resilience, and the ability to stay with it to get the right result at the end of the night.”

That victory would have only meant so much had the Hurricanes sleep walked against the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday – and they didn’t. Not only did the Canes recover from losing a 3-2 lead in the last six minutes and change of regulation, but they were quick to respond to Arizona’s strikes; three separate times the Coyotes took a lead, and in each instance, the Hurricanes answered within two minutes.

“Mental toughness. It’s hard when the other team scores to battle back right away,” said Justin Faulk, who scored the game-winning goal with 17 seconds remaining in regulation. “More times than not, the team that scores has a good shift to follow it up. We were able to battle and get to work. We got those goals right away, and that’s usually a good sign for the team.”

“I liked the fact that there was composure on the bench. We never felt like we were out of it,” Peters said after a brief practice Monday morning. “The guys kept working. It wasn’t the smoothest offensively, but the guys found a way to get two big goals there at the end.”

The 5-4 win was the Canes second victory in a row and 10th overall on the season, and they know the work has just begun. The challenge now is to take this energetic and engaged game on the road and face some pretty good teams in the process.

“It’s momentum right now, but our start in Dallas is going to be important,” Peters said. “I liked the way we battled and competed [against Arizona]. I thought it was a tight game. I thought they did a good job of being above us, and we stayed with it. We found a way.”

The team’s four-game road swing that will venture out west before returning east begins in Dallas against a Stars team that has a league-best 42 points in 27 games and has lost just five games in regulation. The Canes met the Stars just over a month ago in Raleigh, holding their high-flying offense to just a goal in a 1-1 match until the latter half of the third period when the Stars scored thrice to claim a 4-1 win.

“They’re the best team in the league, and they have arguably one of the best lines in hockey right now. They’re real quick. They’re real quick in transition, and they get the puck going,” Peters said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re skating, and at the same time, we have to make sure they play defense. The best way to slow them down is to spend time in our offensive zone and make them play in the D-zone.”

The road swing then continues through Anaheim on Friday and Arizona, the second game against the Coyotes in seven days, on Saturday before the team returns to the Eastern time zone to face off in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

“Business-like. There are eight points available,” Peters said of the team’s approach. “We’ve got to make sure we get our fair share or more of our fair share of the points, and we’ve got to play the right way in all four games. We’re going into some real tough buildings to play against good, quality teams.”

“We need to win. We need to win now and get back in the race,” Kris Versteeg said Monday. “The guys in here believe we can win, not just every other night, but we’ve got to win and compete every night. When you do that, the feeling in the room changes, and the vibe is more positive. Winning in the end always changes everything.”



Michael Smith
MICHAEL SMITH is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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