Teams that return from their five-day break have not performed well. Recently, I read an article that detailed that most teams have looked disengaged and out of sync. The article stated that eight of 11 teams that returned from their break lost their first game. To put it simply, the Canes cannot join that crowd tonight.
"This is the start to a five-game segment," Peters said. "We have to play our best hockey of the season." That pretty much sums up the position that the Canes are in as the trade deadline approaches. The best news as the Canes head into this five game stretch is that all of the games are at home. This is an area that the Canes have excelled in and are 17-6-1. The fifth game is on February 26th and the Canes are currently eight points behind the Maple Leafs with three games in hand.
The quote from Coach Peters makes me think that GMRF told him he will wait on deciding (or at least moving veteran players) the Canes trade deadline status until after most of these five games. Personally, I thought that after the Canes 5-2 loss to Dallas before starting their five-day break cemented their “seller” status. Losses to Colorado today and Toronto on Sunday would most likely end any discussions on which direction they’ll head.
The good news for the Canes is that the Leafs (3-5-2) and Flyers (4-5-1) haven’t looked great in their past ten games. This is very good news for a team that is currently on the “outside looking in” with games in hand. If the Canes are going to make a legitimate run for the final wildcard spot, it will take a “little help from their friends.”
Even better news is that the Canes get to return to action against the last placed team in the NHL, Colorado. This is a team that is currently in complete free fall, as they have dropped their last five straight. They’ve been outscored 18-6 and this marks the final road game of a five-game trip. They lost last night to the Sabres and is the fifth game in seven days for them.
What worries me is that the Canes overlook the Aves and are thinking about the Sunday match-up against the Leafs. While the Aves come in limping and appear to be a game that the Canes should definitely win—these are the types of games that can end up biting you. Given this, the main goal for the Canes tonight is to score first.
To me, it is the mentality of “kick them while they’re down.” The Aves know they aren’t playing for a playoff spot and there have been rumors that the locker-room morale is dropping with guys just sitting in “trade rumor” limbo. Score early, defeat them mentality and then ride the momentum to what hopefully will be a convincing win.
Just how bad are the Aves this year? Well…they’re in last for goals for per game with 1.98, last for goals allowed per game with 3.36, 2nd to last on the PP converting only 14.9% of opportunities 5th to last on the PK killing 77.8% of shorthanded situations and are bottom five in the league for shots for and shots against per game. These stellar results have landed the Aves 15 points behind the 29th placed Coyotes.
The one interesting facet for the Canes is that Pesce skated yesterday, however, didn’t skate this morning. He apparently is a game-time decision after suffering an undisclosed injured. According to Chip Alexander with the Raleigh News and Observer, Coach Peters described Pesce as feeling “wonky."
As a result, in the morning skate Tennyson was paired with Slavin, Hanifin-Dahlbeck and Hainsey-Faulk. It will be interesting to see what happens with Pesce tonight.
The Canes also moved Teravanien back to center and he is expected to be between Skinner and Stempniak This isn’t a surprise to see some line juggling, as most of the offensive went stagnant in the final two games before the rest period.
The only Cane going into the rest period that was playing stellar hockey was Aho. At the current moment, he is playing the best hockey of any Canes player and is looking phenomenal. He is playing with tons of confidence.
Let’s hope that the Canes do not look too rusty tonight. The goals tonight need to be: Score first (and often), get some offensive chemistry going, get a struggling PP on the board and let Ward get a confidence building win. Puck drop is at 7:30 and is on FSCR and ALT. Go Canes!