From the quiet to the noise — that’s how it’s going to be for the Carolina Hurricanes as they head into a pair of home games this weekend.
Carolina takes on the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night, with quite a bit of fanfare expected. It’s the team’s annual Whalers Night, which pays homage to the franchise’s past life as the Hartford Whalers. The game will include retro jerseys and all sorts of historical references.
The players are rather looking forward to it.
“Probably (for the) fans, for sure,” Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov said what he’ll embrace about the weekend. “It’s going to be a big two games for us before (the) break.”
This edition of the Hurricanes is trying to carve out its own piece of history and the team has been doing a pretty good job of it this season as Carolina is tied atop the Metropolitan Division, entering Friday.
It already has been an exciting week. There was an overtime win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night followed by Thursday night’s shootout triumph on the road against the Ottawa Senators, marking the Hurricanes’ fifth win in the past six games.
It wasn’t until Carolina’s 40th game this season that it ended up in a shootout. Svechnikov produced the decisive tally and Frederik Andersen stopped all three attempts from the Senators.
“When your goalie stops them all, it makes it a lot easier,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
It also marked Carolina’s first game this season played without fans. That’s because recent COVID-19 restrictions have left arenas in Canada without regular attendance, so that might make it even more exciting for the Hurricanes to get back into a noisy environment.
“We want to have a good performance for our fans,” Brind’Amour said.
Carolina largely struggled in the second and third periods at Ottawa, with the puck in its defensive zone for much of the action.
“You’ve got to be able to be comfortable playing defense a little bit,” center Derek Stepan said. “Anytime you win, you don’t critique it.”
New Jersey will arrive coming off Thursday night’s 3-2 loss at Tampa Bay, the Devils’ third straight defeat.
“We’ve got to win games,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “We’ve got to be able to score more than two. What we need to take away from this is we’ve got to get it in the back of the net.”
The Devils have lost six of their last seven games, the exception coming in last Saturday’s 7-4 home victory against Carolina.
An interesting angle for the rematch comes with the status of Devils defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who hasn’t played since Jan. 2 because of a broken jaw. He spent the past three seasons with Carolina and he’s with the team on this road trip.
The Devils had defenseman Ty Smith back for the Tampa Bay game after he sat out three games, including last weekend’s matchup with the Hurricanes.
New Jersey scored a power-play goal in three tries against Carolina’s stout penalty-killing efforts in the previous meeting.
“We’ve been really good on the power play as of late,” said Devils center Jack Hughes, noting that the three remaining games before the All-Star break are critical for New Jersey to try to build momentum.
Defenseman Ethan Bear was back in the Carolina lineup for the Ottawa game for the first time since Jan. 13 after being a healthy scratch for five games. He tallied two shots.
“It didn’t look like he had been out a long time,” Brind’Amour said.
–Field Level Media