The Hurricanes knew last week’s road trip was going to be a tough one, and they were right.
“We’re in the fight, which is where we hoped to be coming out of this mess,” said Paul Maurice after the third and final game of the voyage.Although the Canes didn’t get a victory, they got two hard-fought points in a pair of shootout losses in Chicago and Washington. Despite the obvious fatigue that comes with playing six games in nine days, the team was actually able to dig deep and put together some strong third periods along the way.
“I think the guys get to the games some nights and they’re not sure what they’ve got in the tank and they don’t feel great,” said Maurice. “After that, I think you can mentally wrap your head around leaving it all there for the last 20 minutes.”
The Hurricanes also managed to keep themselves in playoff position, as they still hold the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed as of Monday morning. With three full days off from games heading into Wednesday’s game against New Jersey, the schedule sets up favorably going forward.
The Canes have 11 games remaining, eight of which are at home, where they’ve won five in a row. There are only three more road games on the schedule, and all are quick single game trips – one to Florida and two to New Jersey.
They also get a few periods of rest along the way, with a four-day break to finish March and only one set of back-to-back games (with no travel involved) coming this weekend against the New York Islanders and Washington.
Call it an evening-out of the schedule following the trials of the last 30 days.
“You would hope that,” said captain Rod Brind’Amour. “That’s the whole idea that we got through that stretch and we’re home now, but that doesn’t guarantee you anything. You’ve got to take advantage, and we’re not in a position that we can sit back.”
“The three days off is important to us right now just to get our energy level back, and then being at home is important for sure,” said Maurice.
Cam Ward, who has started 18 consecutive games, got the day off practice to rest. The team’s Television Analyst and former professional goaltender, Tripp Tracy, filled in.
“I think the guys enjoy shooting on him, which is a problem,” said Maurice. “If it was someone they didn’t know they would have taken it easy on him, but I think he was getting both barrels.”
Patrick Eaves also missed practice with an upper body injury he sustained Saturday at Washington, but the team is optimistic he will be able to play on Wednesday.
Scott Walker, who did not go with the team on their road trip, practiced today but it is still uncertain as to when he could return to the lineup. Wednesday is a possibility, but Maurice said that would depend on how he felt after tomorrow’s practice.
Brandon Sutter was reassigned to Albany prior to practice. Now that his old junior team in Red Deer has finished its season, Sutter is eligible to play in Albany for the remainder of the regular season (see here for clarification). Albany is not expected to make the playoffs.