After playing their only two road games of the month, the Carolina Hurricanes return home to host the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.
The cross-conference match-up opens a stretch of three straight games at home that then takes the Canes into All-Star Weekend and their bye week.
New Year's Resolution
Two losses. Three wins. Two losses.
That's how the Hurricanes have started 2020, and three of those five losses have come to Metropolitan Division opponents, including a 3-2 final in Columbus on Thursday. That was a divisional loss in which the Canes felt like they deserved a better fate, especially after recording 73 shot attempts to the Blue Jackets' 31.
"That's a tough one. That's probably our best game of the year, really, as far as playing the way we want to play," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "The other team really didn't have a lot. We gave them a couple, and they found the net. Give them credit. They play hard. It was a hard-fought game. It just didn't go the way it probably should have."
As if the result wasn't already sour enough, the Hurricanes also lost All-Star defenseman Dougie Hamilton to what looked to be a serious left leg injury late in the second period.
Kevin Stenlund and Hamilton got entangled along the near boards, and Hamilton's left leg folded awkwardly underneath himself as he fell to the ice.
"It doesn't look good, obviously," Brind'Amour said.
Hamilton and the Canes will have a better idea of the extent of the injury (and a recovery timeline) once the defenseman is evaluated by the team's doctors.
"Arguably one of our best players this year. He's our All Star. It shook everybody up seeing that happen," Jordan Martinook said. "It's the cliché hockey next-man-up type thing, but that's a lot of big minutes to find. Guys will have to step up, and hopefully we can get him back sooner rather than later."
Return of Williams?
Justin Williams' return to game action is nearing.
"He's getting there," Brind'Amour said on Wednesday. "We're going to chat … see where he's at and hopefully get him in soon."
Brind'Amour and the coaching staff shuffled up the forward lines for Thursday night and, for the most part, liked what they saw.
"I thought we had three lines that played pretty well," Brind'Amour said. "From top to bottom, I thought it was a pretty good game. … It felt like we were on them the whole game."
Does Williams draw in on the second half of a back-to-back? It's certainly a possibility.
The Last Meeting
The Hurricanes ended a three-game trek through California in Anaheim on Oct. 18 and dropped a 4-2 decision to finish with a 1-2-0 record on the road trip. The Ducks built a 4-0 lead with two goals in the first and two in the second before the Canes were able to get a couple pucks past Ryan Miller. In his 96th NHL game, defenseman Haydn Fleury scored his first career NHL goal, one of the few memorable moments from what Brind'Amour called "one of the worst hockey games I've been around. Just gross."
Video: CAR Recap: Fleury scores first NHL goal in 4-2 loss
The Ducks end a four-game road trip in Raleigh, after which the team will then step away for nearly 10 days for the bye week and All-Star Weekend. Like the Canes, the Ducks were also in action on Thursday night, topping the Nashville Predators, 4-2. That victory snapped a four-game losing skid, embedded in a stretch of that saw Anaheim win just one of their previous eight games (1-6-1).
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