EDMONTON - The Carolina Hurricanes begin a five-game road trip in Edmonton, where they meet the Pacific Division-leading Oilers for the first time this season.
Before embarking on their longest road trip of the season, the Canes scored two straight wins at home over San Jose and Minnesota.
The Hurricanes are in the midst of a stretch that sees them play seven straight games against Western Conference opponents, and before leaving on this five-game trip that takes them through Western Canada and Colorado, the Canes topped San Jose in a shootout and routed Minnesota.
"It gets everybody feeling good and upbeat," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said about the two home wins. "When you win a couple, everyone feels good about the game. Now, you have to figure out how to continue to keep getting better and maintain that because we've got to keep winning games."
"We created some momentum," said Sebastian Aho, who tallied a hat trick and a career-best five points against Minnesota. "It's going to be a big road trip for us, and we want to build on those two wins."
Necas & Gauthier
Forward Martin Necas is expected to return to the lineup after he missed four games with a lower-body injury. He skated on a line with Lucas Wallmark and Ryan Dzingel in practice on Monday. Necas has totaled 16 points (6g, 10a) in 26 games in his rookie season.
"He at least thinks he's good," Brind'Amour said.
Julien Gauthier, who leads the Charlotte Checkers in goals with 10, earned his second recall of the season on Sunday evening. Gauthier slotted in on the right wing opposite Brock McGinn on a line centered by Jordan Martinook in practice on Monday.
"It's your play away from the puck, it's understanding what we're trying to do, the systems. I think he's definitely put a lot of work in that area," Brind'Amour said of Gauthier, who made his NHL debut in October. "The rest of his game is, I think, an NHL game. His size, speed and strength, that's NHL quality there. If he can shore up the stuff we're talking about - and, again, he's going to have his mistakes because he's a young guy and this is a different level - he's got a good chance."
The Oilers sit atop the Pacific Division with an 18-10-4 record and 40 points in 32 games. Linemates Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are a lethal one-two punch, as they've combined for 105 points in just 32 games. Draisaitl is the team's leading scorer with 53 points (19g, 34a), while McDavid has 52 points (19g, 33a).
"It's a challenge, and we've got a lot of guys who will accept that challenge," Brind'Amour said. "It's nice we only have to play them twice a year."
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