The Carolina Hurricanes certainly have shown they can win without Rod Brind'Amour.
Now, the Southeast Division leaders try for their longest winning streak of the season when they visit the New Jersey Devils.
|Already the 'Canes top goal-scorer with 29, Eric Staal will have to bear even more of the offensive burden with Rod Brind'Amour out. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Brind'Amour tore a ligament in his left knee in Thursday's 4-2 win over Pittsburgh and is expected to miss at least four months. He is likely out for the rest of the regular season, and the best-case scenario would have him rejoining the team late in the playoffs.
Brind'Amour posted 82 points last season - his most since getting 87 for Philadelphia in 1995-96 - and had 19 goals and 32 assists this season. The Carolina captain also leads the NHL with 851 faceoffs won and was a leader in the locker room.
Still, the Hurricanes (30-27-4) won Thursday despite Brind'Amour playing only 54 seconds, and they came from behind to beat Florida 5-4 on Saturday in their first full game without him. Eric Staal, Trevor Letowski and Ray Whitney all scored in the third period to help Carolina bounce back from a two-goal third-period deficit.
"I didn't think we quit the whole night," Staal, who leads the team with 29 goals, told the Hurricanes' official Web site. "We've competed the last few games, and it's nice to see. With some guys out of the lineup, it's going to take that extra work ethic, and right now it's there."
The Hurricanes have won three straight for the first time since Oct. 9-13. They haven't won four in a row since a five-game run Dec. 16-26, 2006.
The winning streak has come at a good time for Carolina, which leads the hotly contested Southeast by two points over Atlanta and Washington. Florida is just four points behind the Hurricanes and last-place Tampa Bay is within eight.
|Arron Asham (left) scored twice in the Devils' 3-2 win in Ottawa. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)
The winner of the Southeast could be the only team in the division to reach the postseason - Atlanta and Washington are tied for 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
"Before every game in the room here it feels like a playoff game," said Joe Corvo, who has an assist in each of his two games since being acquired from Ottawa last week along with forward Patrick Eaves. "Good things can only happen when you're playing that hard, when you feel like there is that much on the line."
The Hurricanes have won four of five, but the lone defeat over that span was a 6-1 loss in New Jersey on Feb. 9. Carolina has dropped seven of eight against the Devils (33-21-5) and has been outscored 10-2 in losing both meetings this season.
New Jersey has won three of four overall, including Saturday's 3-2 victory in Ottawa. The Devils are tied with Pittsburgh for first place in the Atlantic Division and are just two points behind the conference-leading Senators.
Martin Brodeur, who is 3-0-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average in his last four starts, made a season-high 37 saves Saturday and moved into a tie with San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov for the league lead with 31 wins.
Arron Asham scored twice for New Jersey, netting a goal for the first time in 22 games and recording a point for the first time in 15.
"Ash has responded," coach Brent Sutter said. "If he's finishing and getting involved it gives him opportunities to get the puck to shoot. He's got a great shot and he hasn't shot the puck enough. Sometimes he gets cute and tries to make the perfect play and gets off track. He just needs to go hard up and down his wing."