Rest to the rescue for Hurricanes?
Posted March 25, 2013
Updated March 26, 2013
Three games does not make a season, but for the Hurricanes, the next three games could break the season.
A five-game winless streak has put Carolina on the outside of the playoffs looking in, with injuries and inconsistent efforts to blame for the team only picking up a single point during that stretch.
A scheduling quirk has given the Canes four days off, which allowed the coaching staff to give the players the weekend off to rest and hopefully recover. Will time away to refocus be the tonic for the team?
For head coach Kirk Muller, the time away from the rink should help the team remember what they are capable of.
“A couple of days to get physically rested again and look at what we are all about," he said Monday.
The Canes face Southeast Division-leading Winnipeg twice with a trip to playoff-starved Toronto in between. The good news is Kirk Muller’s crew has three games in hand on the division leaders and a chance to cut into the Jets four-point lead. The chasing team wants to have games in hand, but that only matters if those contests turn into wins.
There are 18 games left in the regular season, but Muller knows that with the compressed schedule the regular season is already over.
“At the end of the day you are in the playoffs right now,” he said.
Injuries have cut into the Canes' blue line the past two weeks, as Justin Faulk, Joe Corvo and now Bobby Sanguinetti have seen time on the injured list. The injuries to the defensive corps have come fast and furious.
It has seemed that when one player returns to the ice, another defensemen is heading off it. The four days off might be enough time to help veteran Joe Corvo get back into the game, as the team took him off the injured list Monday.
Of course, injuries have had a hand in this skid, but it is the declining goal total during the losing streak that is raising red flags.
The top line had been carrying the offensive load this season. Eric Staal, Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin have scored 41.2 percent of the team’s goals this season, but it has felt like more. When the team was rolling, there was more than just some punch coming from the other lines/ Recently, that well has been coming up dry.
Six goals in five games and a power play that is near the bottom of the league have had a bigger impact on this slide than any injury. The front lines that were attacking the opposition at a ferocious pace have stalled out, with the team scoring more than a goal once in that span.
Muller is putting the onus on that group to get back in gear.
“Talked to our forwards about their job that we asked them to do at the start is to work hard and skate hard and be relentless," he said. "Track pucks down and track them back. There is a lot of demand on our forwards to skate in our system.”
Perhaps Alexander Semin can reignite the offense after receiving a five-year extension. It is fair to expect a burst in his play that rewards the team for the faith they have shown in the winger after exceeding expectations on and off the ice. With 30 points in 30 games, it is hard to think he can give more, but Semin is a player capable taking over a game offensively, which the Canes could use this week.
This stretch might just determine if the Hurricanes can get back to the hockey that put them in first place or continue down the road that could leave them with a long off season.