Hurricanes’ Road Trip Features Tough Western Conference Matchups

The Carolina Hurricanes finished the first half of their road trip on Nov. 26 in a 6-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, and after two home games and one quick trip to Dallas, they are back on the road. This time, they are heading north for Canada and Minnesota. The weeklong trip begins on Tuesday, Dec. 7, in Calgary, and wraps up on Tuesday, Dec. 14, against the Minnesota Wild.

Hurricanes’ Road So Far

The first, nearly two-week road trip saw the Hurricanes winning four out of the six games they played. They started things off playing the Vegas Golden Knights, coming away with a 4-2 win. It was a streak they continued in southern California with a 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks and a 5-4 win over the LA Kings. The tides turned in San Jose and Seattle, bringing the Hurricanes their two losses, the first a 2-1 OT loss to the Sharks, followed by a 2-1 loss to the Seattle Kraken who, at the time, were the worst in the Pacific Division. The Kraken have managed to defeat the top teams in the league, coming away with two points against the Washington Capitals, Hurricanes, and the Florida Panthers.

Ian Cole Carolina Hurricanes
Ian Cole, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

After losing three in a row to the Capitals, Dallas Stars, and the Ottawa Senators, the Hurricanes won their last home game against the Buffalo Sabres in a 6-2 blowout. They’ve won the last ten meetings with the Sabres, a streak dating back to 12/17/2016. The win was much needed and a boost to the team despite having Brett Pesce and Tony DeAngelo out on Covid protocols.

Jetting Into Winnipeg

The Hurricanes take aim at Winnipeg on their first stop of the northern road trip. The Jets will be a battle of the Svechnikov brothers with the elder brother, Evgeny, wearing the Jets blue sweater. The Jets are currently sixth in the Central Division with an 11-8-4 record and 26 points. They have won the past two games in high-scoring contests with an 8-4 win against the New Jersey Devils and a 6-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. If they keep up the play that they have, whoever is in net for the Hurricanes could have a night of work ahead of him.

Darryl Sutter’s Flames

With a Sutter behind the helm, the Calgary Flames are living up to their name and have been on fire this season. They are at the top of the Pacific Division with 35 points. Sutter will be looking to add another Stanley Cup to his collection after coaching the LA Kings to two cups in 2012 and 2014. This isn’t his first go-around with the Flames, having coached them from 2002-2006 and serving as general manager between 2003-2010.

Darryl Sutter Calgary Flames
Darryl Sutter, head coach of the Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Flames also have known pest Matthew Tkachuk and former Hurricane Elias Lindholm. The ace up their sleeve would be goalies Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar, who are two of the top goalies in the league at the moment. Markstrom has a goals-against average (GAA) of 1.83 per game, and Vladar isn’t far off with a GAA of 1.78. For reference, Carolina’s Frederik Andersen has a GAA of 2.05. In terms of save percentage (SV%), Vladar has a .939 SV%, while Markstrom has a .937 SV%, and Andersen has a .928 SV%. Shutouts are where Markstrom leads the pack with five shutouts in 18 games played this season.

McDavid, Draisaitl and the Oilers

After years of rebuilding, it seems as though it is finally paying off. The Oilers are sitting just below Calgary in the Pacific standings with a 16-7-0 record and 32 points and are looking to beat out their provincial rival. They also have superstars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, who currently have the most points in the league with 43 and 42, respectively. Draisaitl also leads in goals (21), beating out Alex Ovechkin by one goal; McDavid has 16 goals. The closest player on the Hurricanes is Sebastian Aho, who has 10 goals on the season. The dynamic duo leads in assists as well, with McDavid’s 26 and Draisaitl’s 22. There are no two ways about it; the Hurricanes will be in for two rough games in Alberta.

Changing Canucks

On Sunday night, the Canucks let go of general manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green. Monday, it was announced that Bruce Boudreau had stepped in as the new coach who will try to help them overcome their 8-15-2 start. Even at 18 points, they still have more wins than the Arizona Coyotes and the Ottawa Senators. And though they are at the bottom of the Pacific Division, it is hard to say whether or not the Hurricanes will actually beat them. Going into their game against the Seattle Kraken and Ottawa, many, myself included, thought it would be an easy win, but the Hurricanes fell in both contests.

Related: Canucks’ News & Rumors: Benning, Green, Boudreau & More

The one thing the Hurricanes could have going into their game on Sunday, Dec. 12, is that the Canucks are going to be dealing with changes in their front office and staff behind the bench. While the team is trying to put the pieces back together, they could easily capitalize on those changes, but they need to keep their head in the game and not go into it thinking it could be an easy win.

Last Stop Minnesota

The last stop the Hurricanes will make on this road trip is to see the Minnesota Wild. The team is currently at the top of the Central Division with 35 points and a record of 17-6-1. While they don’t have star goalies like Calgary, they do have Kirill Kaprizov, who is a league leader in points (29) and assists (20). The team is also on a six-game win streak, and no matter if that streak continues or is broken prior to the Hurricanes arrival, there is no doubt it has made the team hungry for success.

Kirill Kaprizov Minnesota Wild
Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The team has two strong rookies as well in Brandon Duhaime and Rem Pitlick. Pitlick is one of the top rookies with 10 points and six goals. The Hurricanes have their own rookie success story with Seth Jarvis, who has four goals and nine points this season. Like the Hurricanes, they have a four-game road trip prior to their Dec. 14 meeting. Who is more tired after four games on the road will come down to this night.

The Hurricanes will have their work cut out for them as they take on some of the strongest teams in the NHL. They have been faltering lately but are still 16-6-1. They will need to be strong and not tire out on the road trip. Similar to their last western road trip, these will be teams they have not faced since before the pandemic, and they will also be seeing familiar faces in Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm, and Warren Foegele and even a sibling in Evgeny Svechnikov. If coach Rod Brind’Amour keeps lines that we know work well together and call-ups can stay on their game, we should be able to play the way we did at the start of the season.

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