Through Feb. 11, Carolina stands ninth in the conference and seven points behind the Washington Capitals for the Southeast Division lead. Doesnâ€™t sound too great, right? Wrong.
|EASTERN CONFERENCE STANDINGS|
|GP = Games Played W = Wins L = Losses|
T = Ties OTL = Overtime Losses
GF = Goals For GA = Goals Against PTS = Points
Teams receive two points for each win, one point for
a tie or overtime loss and no points for a loss.
At the moment the phrase â€œgames-in-handâ€? may be the Hurricanesâ€™ greatest asset and a reason for Caniacsâ€™ to keep their chins up regarding the post-season. Carolina has played two fewer games than the team holding onto eighth place (the last playoff position) in the standings -- the Boston Bruins â€“ and trails the Bruins by only two points.
The 10th place New York Rangers have played two more games than Carolina and trail the Hurricanes by eight points. With only one head-to-head match-up remaining between the teams, April 4 at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers will have a tough time catching Carolina.
The Hurricanesâ€™ four remaining games against the Southeast Division leading Washington Capitals seem to be key to Carolinaâ€™s post-season hopes. The possibility of gaining eight points while holding the Caps to none in those games looks like a juicy steak 15 minutes before the end of a week long fast.
The Hurricanes earned a 3-3 tie against the Capitals in their first game of the season, Oct. 7 at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. The teams meet again on Feb. 24 and March 30 in Raleigh and March 15 and March 28 at Washingtonâ€™s MCI Center.
Success against Washington and in three games against the third place team in the Southeast Division, the Atlanta Thrashers, will be critical to the Hurricanesâ€™ playoff chances. Carolina has never lost to Atlanta in the teamsâ€™ seven regular season games.
Overtaking Washington and winning the Southeast Division will guarantee the Hurricanes at least the third seed in the Conference playoffs. That result will likely see them face the likes of Pittsburgh, Buffalo or Washington in the first round.
If the Hurricanes fail to win the division from Washington but still finish in seventh or eighth place in the conference, a division champion will most likely await in the first round. Currently, the New Jersey Devils lead the Atlantic Division by four points (Philadelphia is second) and the Ottawa Senators lead the Northeast Division by the same margin (Toronto is second).
The Hurricanes might fair well against Ottawa in the playoffs having shutout the Senators twice this season, 4-0 on Nov. 12 in Raleigh and 1-0 on Nov. 16 at Ottawaâ€™s Corel Center.
A playoff series against New Jersey might not be as appealing to the Hurricanes. On Oct. 27 Carolina earned a 3-3 tie against the Devils in Raleigh and fell in overtime at New Jersey on Nov. 18, 3-2.
For the Hurricanes, each remaining game is important â€“ each point sacred. With 22 of the 28 remaining games against Eastern Conference opponents and eight of those within the division, Carolina has time to make its move.
Carolina Hurricanes Website Reportr Kyle S. Hanlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org