In a shortened season, it’s nothing strange for a team to play every other night for weeks upon consecutive weeks. If things are going well, great! If things aren’t? A break in the action would be a welcome rarity for a team and its coaching staff. For the Carolina Hurricanes, who don’t play again until next Tuesday, a four day break is not only welcomed, but almost necessary.
The Canes have dropped five straight games, scoring only a single point out of a possible 10 dating back to March 12. An overtime point against the Rangers is the only point the Canes have come by in the last two weeks. They saw themselves slide from first in the division and third in the conference to barely holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the eastern conference. The Canes are tied with the Rangers with 32 points, and sit only three points ahead of a surging Capitals team who have seemed to find a second wind.
A huge contributor to this is the injury bug. The Canes have been riddled with injuries from the get go, as have many teams in the NHL this season. Depth wasn’t such an issue at the beginning of the season when call-ups from AHL affiliate Charlotte were primed and ready to make an impact. However, as the season draws on, Checkers players are dropping like flies as well. The biggest injury for the Canes in that of starting goaltender Cam Ward, who sustained an MCL sprain on March 3rd. Ward is expected to miss most of the remainder of the season.
Backup goaltender Dan Ellis stepped in and played well in front of a patchwork defense, but suffered a laceration from a skate blade late in the team’s last game against New Jersey. Ellis will miss a little time, forcing the Canes to have two AHL goaltenders on their roster in Justin Peters and John Muse.
The injuries are one key factor playing a role in the recent slide. Another factor has been the inability for the offense to get anything going. The only threatening line in the past couple of weeks has been that of Eric Staal, Alex Semin, and Jiri Tlusty. The second, third, and fourth lines have brought no secondary offense to the table. Chemistry shouldn’t be an issue at this point in the season.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the once vaunted Hurricanes though. Thanks to a miniature slide of their own, the Winnipeg Jets have been unable to run away with the division lead and sit only two points in front of the Canes with two games in hand. The Hurricanes need to take a page out of the Senators book, and fight through these devastating injuries. Adversity can build stronger binds within a team, and the players on the roster should come together and win a few hockey games while the regulars are out.
With only 18 games remaining for the Hurricanes, they need to right the ship fast before they settle for another out-of-playoffs finish. The way the Southeast division is shaping up, it looks like only one team may make the post season. The Canes better hope that they are in front of the pack when playoff time comes, or they may be hitting the golf courses around Raleigh earlier than expected.