Hello and welcome to a weekly feature on CarolinaHurricanes.com in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.
Let's get to it.
First thing's first: the Hurricanes aren't out of the playoffs until the math dictates it. With that said, the team is nine points out of a playoff spot and would have to jump over five teams in order to claim that position, all within the final 15 games of the season. It's not an impossible scenario, but it is unlikely.
So, what keeps the players motivated? There's plenty, beginning with the fact that it's their job to come to the rink each and every day and put their best foot forward.
"It would be wise as a professional to be a professional," head coach Bill Peters said. "What that means is that it's every day. You have to come to work every day. It doesn't change whether its preseason, the start of the regular season, the dog days of the regular season or at the tail end of the season."
There are personal goals for which to play. Can Victor Rask get over the 20-goal mark again? Can Elias Lindholm and Teuvo Teravainen set career highs in points? Will rookie forward Sebastian Aho continue to challenge Jeff Skinner for the team lead in goals? Can Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce improve upon their team-best plus-16?
"There are guys that have numbers they can round up," Peters said. "If you're at 27, get to 30. If you're at 18, get to 20. If you've never scored 20, try to get to 20. If you're a minus-3, try to get in the plus. If you've struggled in a few areas and it's been addressed, try to tighten that up a little bit."
For the front office and coaching staff, this time of year presents a unique evaluation opportunity.
"This is a great time to learn a lot," Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis said after the trade deadline. "You want to see which one of your guys is going to step up and play the hard style of game that needs to be played at this time of year. If you can't do it here, chances are good you can't do it in the playoffs."
"This is the most important time of year," Peters said. "Teams are desperate for points and playing very well. If you can play at this time of year, you answer a lot of questions."
It's true: the NHL Centennial Fan Arena, an interactive traveling fan experience visiting all NHL markets across North America this year, will make its stop in Raleigh on April 1-2.
It's pretty impressive what the NHL brings along as it travels city to city. The main attraction is a 53-foot museum truck that features historic memorabilia and much, much more. There's also a pop-up ball hockey rink and a VR experience that simulates resurfacing the ice on a Zamboni. And, of course, the Stanley Cup will make an appearance.
A full schedule and complete details on the NHL Centennial Fan Arena in Raleigh can be found here.
I'm not sure that's in the cards at this point, but you can't rule anything out with just under a month left to play in the regular season.
While it's an intriguing idea to wonder what Haydn Fleury or Roland McKeown or some of the other up-and-comers in the prospect pool could do at this level at this point in the season, the Hurricanes are walking wounded up front and have already plucked a number of skaters from Charlotte. Brock McGinn, Phil Di Giuseppe and Valentin Zykov are all nursing upper-body injuries, and in Tuesday's game against the New York Islanders, Jay McClement went down with a lower-body concern. Injuries, then, have forced some "extended looks" at guys like Patrick Brown and Lucas Wallmark. Not to mention, the team is already carrying an extra defenseman and has rotated Ryan Murphy and Matt Tennyson in and out of the lineup.
Join me next week for more questions and more answers!
If you have a question you'd like answered or you'd like to work in the same office as @coope87, @NikkiStoudt and me - we're hiring! - you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes or drop an email here.