RALEIGH, N.C. (MARCH 22, 2007) - With the exception of the All-Star break in January, The Hurricanes didn't have a four-day break in between games all season. So far in March, they've had two.
The Hurricanes' schedule down the stretch is the exact opposite of their schedule to start the season. After playing their first two games at home, they had to play their next seven on the road. In the first three weeks of the season, they had three sets of back-to-back games.
After the way the team responded to their last such break, going 3-1-1 in crucial games and playing well even when they didn't pick up two points, the time off couldn't be more timely.
|Scott Walker |
"I thought we played energized hockey since [the first break]," said Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette, who, as with the last break, gave his team two full days off without practice. "I liked the way we came out of the first one, especially on the heels of last year with the short summer, the grind and a lot of guys covering minutes for guys that have been injured. I think it came at the right time."
While the Hurricanes have had time to rest, their next opponent, the Washington Capitals, will have to play in Buffalo the night before coming down to Raleigh to take on the Hurricanes. Carolina considers it due justice for having to play in that same situation so many times earlier in the season.
"Those teams had long breaks earlier in the year when we were playing back-to-backs, and now we're playing teams on the end of their back-to-backs, so in terms of that it's kind of working in our favor," said winger Andrew Ladd.
While the Capitals might seem like an easy mark while sitting near the bottom of the league standings, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning would tell you differently. Both of those teams, who are in a similar position to the Hurricanes in terms of having to win to secure a playoff spot, were completely dismantled by the Capitals last week by scores of 5-1 and 7-1.
"The last two games they've pounded the teams they've played," said right wing Scott Walker. "As much as you don't keep track, you also see those things knowing you're going to play them. They're starting to play a really solid game and are a little bit loose, and they've racked it up their last couple of games."
The Capitals are just one of many teams that have elevated their play late in the season even though they have little to no chance of qualifying for the postseason. Without facing the pressure of repeated must-win situations, such teams are dangerous as they play for jobs next season, pride, or just to play spoiler to a team like Carolina.
|Cory Stillman |
"I think when you see a team that's out of the playoffs and trying to play a spoiler, they can take more chances," said Cory Stillman. "I think you see a different game on that side than you would with two teams battling for the 7th and 8th or 6th or 7th spot. You're going to see a different game."
If the Capitals do take more chances, that's something the Hurricanes will have to be wary of. Washington's dynamic Russian duo, Alexanders Ovechkin and Semin, rank 4th and 9th in NHL goal-scoring, respectively. Semin in particular has shown to be a certified Canes-killer this season with nine points in seven games.
"If somebody can show me an easy game on the schedule, let me highlight it so I can take a breath and the players can take a breath," said Laviolette. "But the bottom line is, there aren't any. You've got to be ready to play no matter who it is."
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Washington Capitals
Thursday, March 22, 7 p.m. (ET)
RBC Center * Raleigh, NC
Hurricanes: 36-29-8 (80 pts.) 3rd Southeast Division; 8th Eastern Conference
Capitals: 26-34-13 (65 pts.), 5th Southeast Division; 14th Eastern Conference
*Standings through NHL games of March 20
The Carolina Hurricanes begin a two-game home stand on Thursday against Southeast Division rival Washington (7 p.m., FSN South, Hurricanes Radio Network). The Hurricanes play their final game against a Western Conference opponent on Saturday when the San Jose Sharks visit the RBC Center (7 p.m., FSN South, Hurricanes Radio Network). The Hurricanes enter Thursday’s play with 80 points. Carolina is in the midst of a tight standings race with Tampa Bay, the New York Rangers, Toronto, Montreal and the New York Islanders who are all within five points of each other and vying for the final three Eastern Conference playoff spots.
- Defenseman Glen Wesley earned his 400th NHL assist with his first of two assists, March 17 at New Jersey
- Left wing Craig Adams surpassed the 300 penalty minutes mark for his NHL/Hurricanes career, March 17 at New Jersey
- Defenseman Tim Gleason has goals and points in two straight games (3/15-3/17: 2g, 1a)
- Right wing Justin Williams has assists and points in two straight games (3/15-3/17: 0g, 2a)
- Left wing Ray Whitney has assists and points in two straight games (3/15-3/17: 1g, 2a)
Television: FSN South (Hurricanes LIVE begins at 6:30 p.m.; TWCable Ch. 50, DishNetwork Ch. 446, DirecTV Ch. 633)
Radio: Hurricanes Radio Network – WWMY 102.9 FM (Raleigh – flagship), Pirate Radio – WGHB 1250 AM and WDLX 930 AM (Greenville, NC… check listings for games), News Talk Radio WFNC 640 AM (Fayetteville, NC… Saturdays and Sundays)
Internet: www.nhl.com, www.CarolinaHurricanes.com
- The Hurricanes enter Thursday’s NHL action with 80 points in the Eastern Conference standings. Carolina is in the midst of a six team battle for the final three Eastern Conference playoff spots with Tampa Bay, the New York Rangers, Toronto, Montreal and the New York Islanders.
- It is impossible to divide the 82-game NHL schedule into perfect thirds, but when looking at the first 27 games of the season, Carolina went 14-10-3. In the next 28 games (games 28-55), the Hurricanes posted a 12-12-4 record, and the team has started the final third of the season 10-7-1 (27 games; games 56-82).
- While the Hurricanes have won just 11 games in their last 25 outings, the team earned points in 19 of its last 30 games, going 15-11-4 since Jan. 6, and earning 34 of a possible 60 points in that span.
- The Washington Capitals have gone 2-0-1 in their last three games, including a 7-1 win against Tampa Bay on March 18 and a 5-1 win against Toronto on March 16.
- The Hurricanes’ penalty kill has allowed just one power-play goal in the last 13 games, going 50-for-51 since Feb. 17.
CAROLINA AT HOME: 18-14-4
CAROLINA ON THE ROAD: 18-15-4
CAROLINA ON THE POWER PLAY: 60-of-399 (15.0%)
CAROLINA SHORTHANDED: 305-of-360 (84.7%)
- Goaltender Cam Ward, laceration (leg), day-to-day, missed three games
- Defenseman Bret Hedican, lower body, day-to-day, missed seven games
AGAINST THE CAPITALS
Thursday marks the eighth and final 2006-07 regular-season meeting between the Hurricanes and the Capitals. The teams last met at Washington on March 9, a 3-0 win behind Cam Ward’s second career regular-season shutout. The teams met three times in a nine-day span in January, with the Capitals downing Carolina 5-2 in Raleigh on Jan. 18, the Hurricanes scoring a 6-2 victory on Jan. 26 at the RBC Center and Washington striking back at the Verizon Center with a 7-3 win on Jan. 27.
Washington took the teams’ first meeting of the season on Oct. 7 at the Verizon Center by a 5-2 margin, and the Hurricanes bounced back by taking the teams’ second game on Nov. 9 at the RBC Center by a 5-0 score. Carolina scored a 4-1 win in the teams’ meeting on Nov. 17 in Washington, but the Caps struck back with a 5-2 win at the RBC Center on Jan. 18.
The Hurricanes posted a 5-3-0 record in eight contests against Washington in 2005-06, with Captain Rod Brind'Amour leading all scorers in the series with 11 points (6g, 5a). Dainius Zubrus (5g, 5a) and Alex Ovechkin (3g, 7a) led all Capitals scorers with 10 points each in last season's series. The Hurricanes post a 38-58-14-1 all-time record against the Capitals, including a 19-26-10-1 home record and a 19-32-4 road record.