Hurricane Forecast: Stopping the Slump

Hurricane Forecast: Previewing the Week Ahead
Hurricane Forecast: Previewing the Week Ahead

Happy Monday ‘Canes fans, and welcome to another addition of Hurricane Forecast.  For those of you who can still stomach the logo, thanks for tuning in.  Let’s get started…

Week in Review

Well, it is safe to assume that did not go as planned.  Starting the week just two points out of the final Wild Card spot, Carolina has all but played themselves out of the playoff hunt.

The week began with a loss to the lowly Buffalo Sabres in a make-up game to kick off the last part of the season following Olympic play.  That loss was followed up by losses to the Dallas Stars, L.A. Kings and capped with a 5-3 thumping at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks Sunday night.

To make matters worse, Team USA defenseman Justin Faulk fell victim to an upper-body injury in last night’s matchup, and no update was provided on the severity following the game.

Carolina Hurricanes
Kirk Muller searches for answers (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

This weeks four straight losses makes for the longest active losing streak in the NHL, which puts its tally at five losses in a row dating back to the February 8th loss to the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.

The theme for the Carolina Hurricanes during last weeks losing streak was “Short-handed”, as opposing teams were able to not only kill every power play attempt by the ‘Canes, but tally three short-handed goals in two games during this losing streak.  The Hurricanes are a combined 0-21 on the power play over their last five games.

[Read my latest article analyzing who is to blame for this Carolina Hurricanes mess]

The Week Ahead for the Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes complete their five-game road trip at San Jose Tuesday night before returning to Carolina for a home tilt Friday night vs. the New York Rangers.  The week ends with another road game, this time to New Jersey to face the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.

While the ‘Canes are not completely out of the playoff picture, these three games are as crucial as any have been over the past month.  The Hurricanes are in the midst of their third five-game losing streak of the season, and everyone in the organization needs some good momentum.  If Carolina can sweep the week, it may put them back in the fight.

A Look at the Games

@San Jose Sharks (39-17-6, 84 points)

Tuesday March 4th, 10:30pm

Outlook:  California really does have it all; sunny beaches, beautiful women, celebrities around each corner, and now three amazing hockey teams.  The Golden State Tour comes to an end this week against a San Jose Shark team that boasts a 22-4-3 record at home, which is amongst the best in the league.  It is tough picturing Carolina having the fortitude to take down this squad on Tuesday night.

vs. New York Rangers (33-26-3, 69 points)

Friday March 7th, 7:00pm

Outlook:  You have been waiting long enough Carolina.  Your Hurricanes are finally coming home to you.  The

Ryan Callahan Rangers Captain
Will Ryan Callahan still be a Ranger when the Hurricanes host the Rangers? (Rich Kane/Icon SMI)

question is, do you still want them?  Carolina returns home Friday night to face a Rangers squad they are more than capable of defeating.  The Rangers enter the week in a two-game losing streak of their own, but are one of the best teams on the road in the NHL.  I say Carolina snaps back in this game and ends the losing streak.

@ New Jersey Devils (26-23-13, 65 points)

Saturday March 8th, 7:00pm

Outlook:  The Hurricanes are back on the road for a Saturday tilt vs. the New Jersey Devils, another team on the outside of the Eastern Conference Wild Card.  This is a game Carolina should win (although, we saw how that went at Buffalo).  I believe they are more talented, and New Jersey is just 20th in the league at home.  Carolina ends the week taking two out of three.

What to Watch For

The injury bug has begun to strike the Carolina Hurricanes locker room.  Earlier in the week we saw Alexander Semin go down, but was able to return after missing only one game.  Sunday night had another ‘Cane in the training room, as Justin Faulk suffered an upper-body injury and is yet to be given a timetable.  The Hurricanes cannot afford to lose any of their key players during this stretch.

Carolina Hurricanes
Justin Faulk must return healthy for Carolina. (Andy Martin Jr.)

The Carolina Hurricanes goalie situation continues to be intriguing.  Cam Ward got the start Sunday, during a back-to-back Saturday/Sunday schedule.  It seems, however, that Anton Khudobin will be the starting goalie, after taking his place between the pipes during the mid-week slate.  Khudobin has been playing much better hockey than Cam Ward since their return and should be in net moving forward.  It will be interesting to see what GM Jim Rutherford does before March 5th.