The Carolina Hurricanes are dead-last in their division, and just a single point separates them and dead-last in the Eastern Conference. That's pretty bad.
And yet even so- They have three more points than the Dallas Stars.
As a group we've an abundance of experience in dealing with this- The long, slow fade. The inevitability it takes each of us to a variable length of time to grasp. We've done it all before- In the time of the Gulutzans and the Crawfords of the world.
But this season- And after last season? It makes the whole thing feel remarkably fresh and new, does it not?
Four teams to jump. An eight point gap. No games in hand. Lost seven of the last ten. Colorado and Arizona separate them from 30th in a 30 team league.
Quite a hill. They're saying all the right things- But we've seen this show before, and the vultures are circling overhead.
Media headlines have turned sharply. Lindy Ruff and Claude Julien replace the penalty kill. The expansion draft replaces talk of the goaltending tandem. The trade deadline and names like Sharp and Eaves replace complaints about whose favorite young d-man isn't getting the kind of playing time you'd like them to.
Just like the not-so-good-old days.
But hey- There's a hockey game on this afternoon and that's better than a poke in the eye with a rusty poker. They couldn't write the first chaper of their big turn-around in Toronto. Or Ottawa. Maybe here at home against the Hurricanes.
The similarly desperate Hurricanes. They need five points more than five teams in front of them down the stretch- But they've got a little more sunshine hitting them in the form of having played just 52 games to Boston's 56 in that second wild card slot now.
That's the good news for Carolina. The bad news for them today is that they haven't had much success on the road this season- Just seven wins away from home (same as the Stars, hello), topped in futility by only the Arizona Coyotes and their six.
Most recently they out-shot the Capitals in our nation's capital but got wallopped 5-0 in the loss. They've allowed eight power play goals against over their last eight road games including two twice, and they rarely score on their own advantages on the road, failing to in four of their last six away contests.
The Stars should see Cam Ward in net tonight after Eddie Lack returned from an extended stint on injured reserve to less-than-stellar results-
...The result was somewhat predictable. Lack was antsy and rusty, and the Caps (37-11-6), playing their best hockey of the season, made it 10 in a row at home with a 5-0 win.
“I felt like I was chasing the game at first,” said Lack, who faced 28 shots. “I was all over the place. Maybe I wanted it too much, you know. I felt like I settled down in the second and made some good saves, and they got some good goals in the third.
“It’s never fun letting five goals in, for sure. One part of me feels like it’s fun being back and playing and everything, and one part of me is disappointed.” [News Observer]
Also a factor for the Canes in this one is this new weird NHL bye-week thing where each team gets five days off from practice and games. For Carolina that starts after this one, and they wonder how large their point-gap will be when they get back from it.
Motivation on their part should not be hard to come by, provided they're not looking forward to their pending vacations to Mexico or whatever.
1:00pm. Early. Don't be late.