Just six games remain in the 2013-14 regular season, and as head coach Kirk Muller has said, there is still a lot of fight left with the Carolina Hurricanes.
That was evident on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, when the Canes rode a tremendous team effort to a 4-1 win against a team destined for a top playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re picking up points with wins and some [overtime losses], but [overtime losses] aren’t going to cut it right now. We have to get the two points,” Muller said. “We’re playing hard and smart. Our special teams are winning that game right now, our goaltending has been strong and five-on-five we haven’t given up much. It’s just scoring timely goals hasn’t been there in some of these games where we could maybe make the difference.”
On Tuesday, the Canes got a timely goal from Justin Faulk late in a first period that was otherwise controlled by the Penguins. The Hurricanes would go on to add three more goals, two from Elias Lindholm, to secure a 4-1 win.
“They’ve really elevated their game, whether it’s five-on-five or on the power play. They have nice chemistry with (Riley) Nash, and they’ve been producing offensively,” Muller said of Lindholm and linemate Jeff Skinner, who is riding a career-high-tying six-game point streak. “They’ve been playing a real smart game, competing, challenging the defense and they’re on the puck getting lots of opportunities.”
Tonight, the Canes host the Dallas Stars, who control the second wild card spot in the Western Conference with 85 points (37-27-11). The two teams faced off in Dallas shortly after the Olympic break, a game in which the Stars scored twice shorthanded en route to a 4-1 victory.
They key to reversing those fortunes tonight?
“A lot of puck management,” Muller said, simply. “When we played them last time in there, they really had the pace on us. We have to manage the puck well tonight. We have to get it behind their D and make them play in their zone.”
Anton Khudobin, who made 30 saves on 31 shots in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, will get his second start versus Dallas this year as he looks for win No. 18 on the season. His .930 save percentage ranks third among all NHL goaltenders.
In other lineup notes, forwards Alexander Semin (who missed Tuesday’s game) and Drayson Bowman did not skate this morning and are questionable for tonight with illnesses. Zach Boychuk has been recalled on an emergency basis.
This marks the third recall for Boychuk this season, who has tallied a goal and three assists in nine NHL games this season. Boychuk earned CCM/AHL Player of the Month honors in March after posting 22 points (9g, 13a) in 16 games.
Forward Jiri Tlusty will remain out of the lineup tonight with an upper-body injury. He didn’t skate this morning and is day-to-day.
Defenseman Ron Hainsey did not skate this morning, either, but should be good to go for tonight, Muller said. Hainsey and his wife are expecting in the very near future.
Tonight’s game, the first of three remaining regular-season home games for the Canes, kicks off Fan Appreciation Week. The first 10,000 fans in the door tonight will receive a Justin Faulk bobblehead presented by Compuware. The games on Saturday and Thursday feature more giveaways – a team poster and a hat – plus South Plaza Parties and more. Additional details can be found here.