Following a four-game road trip, the Carolina Hurricanes return to Raleigh to host the New Jersey Devils.
The Canes collected four of a possible eight points on the road trip while facing four teams in playoff positioning in the Western Conference. The Canes now come home, where they will play five of their last eight February games at PNC Arena.
"We Can Be Better"
Though the Canes were able to post a .500 record on their road trip, they could have very easily gone winless. The Canes surrendered the first goal in each of the four games (and have yet to score the first goal since before All-Star Weekend), and they had to overcome multi-goal deficits to earn both victories.
"We can be better. That's really what it's all about. This time of year, it's getting tougher and tougher. Every team is dialed in right now," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said after practice on Thursday. "We need everybody to be dialed in and ready to go right from the get-go."
Video: Brind'Amour:"The competition is as good as it'll get"
One of the most consistent players on the road trip was Sebastian Aho, who is riding a six-game goal streak, the longest such stretch of his career, and a seven-game point streak. Only Auston Matthews, David Pastrnak, Alex Ovechkin, Leon Draisaitl, Jack Eichel and Nathan MacKinnon have more goals than Aho (31) this season.
Aho remained in the middle of Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen in Thursday's practice. That line fueled the Canes' come-from-behind win in Arizona and was a driving force offensively in Vegas and Dallas, as well.
"We need everyone, for sure, on board and getting that effort. That's what I'm really looking for," Brind'Amour said. "I want to see all 20 guys digging in."
Down the Stretch
The Canes are coming off a stretch of seven consecutive games against Western Conference opponents.
In the final month-and-a-half of the season, 21 of the Canes' 26 games will be played within the Eastern Conference, and 12 of those 21 games will feature Metropolitan Division opponents.
The Canes are currently fighting to get back across the wild card playoff line in the Eastern Conference.
"Arguably, our division is the best division in hockey. It's not going to be easy, that's for sure," Brind'Amour said. "Every game is so important. There is never an easy night."
The Last Meeting
The Devils scored their first road win of the season when these two Metro Division teams last met on Nov. 2. Erik Haula netted what was then his team-leading eighth goal of the season, but P.K. Subban tallied the game-winning goal in the third period in a 5-3 final.
Video: CAR Recap: Haula provides two points in 5-3 loss
The Devils were in action on Thursday night and scored four goals in four minutes in the third period to defeat the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1. The win was the Devils' third in their last four games. Kyle Palmieri leads the team in scoring with 39 points (21g, 18a) in 52 games.
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