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Struggling Hurricanes visit Ducks

by John Kreiser

HURRICANES (26-25-9) at DUCKS (42-14-5)


Last 10: Carolina 4-6-0; Anaheim 5-5-0

Season series: This is the second and final game of the season between the Carolina Hurricanes and Anaheim Ducks. Carolina won 3-2 in a shootout at home on Nov. 15.

Big story: Carolina's hopes of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs are getting more distant by the day. The Hurricanes have dropped three in a row coming out of the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics and are seven points behind the Detroit Red Wings, who hold the last wild-card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Playing the NHL's best team isn't likely to help; the Ducks won their first game after the break by beating the St. Louis Blues 1-0 on Friday.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: Carolina's offense has gone cold after the break. The Hurricanes have scored four goals in the three defeats and are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday in which they generated little offense. Part of the problem is that Carolina is spending a lot of time killing penalties; the Hurricanes' penalty-killers were 7-for-7 in a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday and killed off five in a row in Los Angeles before the Kings scored the go-ahead goal on the sixth try.

"That was pretty much the difference in the game," coach Kirk Muller said. "I thought our guys played hard, but if you're going to give six or seven power plays to the other team, eventually it's going to hurt you.

"Two things: We didn't stay out of the box and it cost us and we didn't capitalize when we had some good scoring chances."

Ducks: As coach Bruce Boudreau had feared, the Ducks looked rusty in their first game in 20 days. But Andrew Cogliano scored a first-period goal and Anaheim made it stand up. Jonas Hiller stopped 18 shots, but got plenty of help; his teammates made 27 blocks and the Blues missed the target 30 times.

But that came against a team the Blues are battling for the top spot in the Western Conference and the overall NHL standings. Defenseman Cam Fowler said Anaheim can't look past  struggling Carolina.

"We have to be ready because they have a lot of skill over there," he told the Ducks website Saturday. "They're a team that works hard and relies on their scoring and goaltending. It's going to be a good game. We're looking to not have a letdown against this team. It's going to be an important game for us."

Who's hot: Hurricanes defenseman Andrej Sekera scored his career-best 10th goal in the loss to the Kings and has points in all three games since the break. … Hiller has won his past two starts, allowing two goals on 56 shots.

Injury report: Hurricanes forward Alexander Semin (lower body) missed the game in L.A. … Ducks center Mathieu Perreault (upper body) left the game Friday. He didn't practice Saturday, and Boudreau said he's unlikely to play.

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