The Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils have a lot in common through 31 games for both teams this season. Most notably, they share first place in the Metropolitan Division with 44 points.
One team will move into the division lead when they meet Tuesday night in Raleigh, N.C.
The Hurricanes are one of the NHL’s hottest teams with five consecutive victories and an 11-game points streak (9-0-2).
Another reason the teams are tied atop the standings is that the Devils have struggled for the past 10 days. They’ve lost five games in a row, picking up just one standings point during that stretch (0-4-1).
“We’re going to get down and put our boots on and we’re going to work to make sure that we can get out of this hole,” Devils defenseman Brendan Smith said. “We’re not getting down on each other … We’re just trying to come together and work on the areas we need to improve on.”
New Jersey will be coming off a two-day layoff after playing four games in six nights. Tuesday will mark Carolina’s fourth game in six days.
The time off, albeit brief, might have given the Devils time to reset.
“You have to figure it out,” captain Nico Hischier said. “Teams go through stretches like that and we just got to bounce back. We’ve got not an easy schedule ahead of us so we know we’ve got to play our best hockey.”
New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff said some of the things that were going so well for the Devils earlier in the season might not be working as well now. He said across the course of the season there will be stretches when the puck won’t go in and getting to rebounds isn’t working out.
Defense was responsible for the Devils’ hot start to the season and that should be the foundation now, Ruff said.
“Your B plan is stick with what got you there and you might have to win 1-0 or 2-1,” Ruff said.
Carolina’s recent surge has come minus some expected major contributors. Sebastian Aho has missed the last five games with a lower-body injury and goalie Frederik Andersen has been out for more than a month.
Goalie Pyotr Kochetkov has a 9-1-4 record and has shown no signs of cracking during a heavy workload this month. He’s 7-0-2 in his last nine games and now holds the longest points streak by a rookie goalie in franchise history.
“Every start he has been solid,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
That’s what the Carolina players have noticed as well. Kochetkov has an unconventional style, but he tends to keep pucks out of the net.
“I don’t care how you do it, save it,” teammate Derek Stepan said.
Much of what the Hurricanes are doing has revolved around captain Jordan Staal, who had the game-winning goal Sunday that snapped Pittsburgh’s seven-game winning streak. Staal also had an assist in the third period, when he won five of seven faceoffs.
“Those are the things our group follows and that’s why he’s our leader,” Stepan said of Staal.
This game will mark the end of Carolina’s four-game homestand. The first three games have resulted in one-goal victories.
–Field Level Media