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Gameday: Canes Hope Home Cooking Continues

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
There is likely no better time than now for the Carolina Hurricanes to have an extended homestand.

Michael Smith
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The Hurricanes are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and 7-2-1 in their last 10 games at home. They are riding a three-game home winning streak entering tonight’s contest, and they’ve won six of their last seven games at home.

“If you want to be a good team, you have to be good at home,” forward Jeff Skinner said. “As of late, we’ve just been playing with a little more confidence, and I think the compete level is up. It’s been the same story now for about a month, month-and-a-half.”

The Canes topped the Caps 5-0 in their most recent home game, riding the energy of the raucous RBC Center crowd to a dominating performance. After the game, numerous players specifically noted the energy in the building, and Skinner repeated much of that today.

“It’s a loud building, and the other night we had a great crowd,” he said. “It’s easy to feed off that energy, and it makes it tough on the other teams coming in to play through that.”

Carolina will need the partisan crowd again tonight when the Anaheim Ducks, who are also looking to make late-season playoff push, fly into town.

The Ducks fell 3-2 to the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Tuesday, halting Anaheim’s nine-game point streak, dating back to Feb. 3. They went 6-0-3 in that stretch, winning twice in extra hockey.

Tonight’s game will bring an end to an eight-game road trip for the Ducks. Bolstered by that nine-game point streak, they’ve gone 4-1-2 on the cross-country trek thus far. In their last 13 road games, dating back to late December, they’ve gone 8-2-3.

Yet, the team still has a losing record on the road at 10-12-8. The culprit? Winning just two of their first 17 road games; from Oct. 29 until Dec. 26, the Ducks went winless in 13 straight road games (earned points in four).

They’ve clearly turned their road game around since then, and Canes’ head coach Kirk Muller is well aware of that.

“It’s awareness of their top guys when they’re on the ice,” Muller said of the gameplan. “They’re big bodies, and they like to cycle. We’ve got to be prepared to that type of game.”

One of those top guys is All-Star Corey Perry, who netted the game-winning goal when these two teams met last on Feb. 8 in Anaheim. Perry is a goal shy of 30 for the season, and he has 48 points, which ranks second on the team.

Hurricanes fans probably recall that game in Anaheim two weeks ago. As Jussi Jokinen swooped around the net, Perry trailed him, reached his stick out and tripped him. The near official, Tim Peel, did not call a penalty, and Perry scored the game-winning goal just seconds later. (As a pertinent side note, Peel is not on the officiating crew for tonight, which includes Gord Dwyer and Wes McCauley.)

Skinner recalled this, but at the same time, he said it was important to have a short memory.

“Every game is so important down the stretch that you have to put things in the past pretty quickly,” he said. “You’ve got to come out and play consistently. To be consistent, you have to be focused and concentrated on the game that’s coming up. We played a pretty good road game against them last game.”

Muller also said he thought the team played a good road game, despite the unfortunate result.

Starting in net tonight for the Hurricanes will be Justin Peters, who is coming off a 17-save shutout against Washington on Monday. This will be the first set of two straight starts for the goaltender since he did so last year in early January. He won both of those games, starting in place of a not-so-healthy Cam Ward.

Ward skated at the end of the morning skate today, and Muller is optimistic he will return to practice on Friday.

“We want to make sure no one gets in there until they’re 100 percent healthy,” he said. “We’ll give Ward and [Boucher] that time to do that. In the mean time, Peters has done a good job, and we’ve got Murph up here to get a little bit of experience.”

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