The Carolina Hurricanes got back into the win column with a dominant 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild as goalie Frederik Anderson improved to 3-0 since returning from injury earlier this month. Andersen and an offensive outburst from the blueliners were the stories of the night, with Brady Skjei, Brent Burns, and Jalen Chatfield all finding the back of the net in the win. Forward Teuvo Teravainen added a shorthanded goal in the second period while Hurricanes’ points leader Martin Necas scored a power play goal late in the third period to put the game out of reach.
Things took a turn late in the contest as forward Max Pacioretty appeared to injure his right leg on a non-contact play with less than 20 seconds left. He was unable to put any weight on it as he left the ice. Unfortunately, the injury also occurred to the same leg that he had Achilles surgery on last summer.
This offensive outburst from the Hurricanes’ defensemen is not an anomaly, as they’ve been finding the back of the net and producing points at a very high level this season. In the 5-2 win over the Wild, they were responsible for three goals and two assists on the night. Since Nov. 25, the Hurricanes entered the night with 20 goals and 67 points from their blue line trailing only the Winnipeg Jets and the New York Rangers. Brent Burns and Brady Skjei lead the group with 29 and 20 points respectively, but they also have tremendous depth that allows them to continue producing if someone misses a game or goes through a cold stretch.
It will be important for the Hurricanes’ defense corps to continue producing above the league average, now that it appears Pacioretty will surely miss some time and the forward group will have to work to overcome that loss.
Andersen has helped the Hurricanes right the ship following their impressive 11-game winning streak that came to an end on Jan. 3. He returned from injury on Jan. 12 and helped them put an end to their four-game losing streak. He has continued to impress since then, winning his next two starts to improve to 3-0, which allowed the front office to make the decision to send the struggling Pyotr Kochetkov back down to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League (AHL).
It will be interesting to follow how head coach Rod Brind’Amour handles the goalie situation with Andersen and Antti Raanta both having the ability to play the position at a high level behind the Hurricanes’ strong defense. I expect him to give Andersen plenty of rest throughout the remainder of the season in an effort to keep him in strong form heading into the postseason.
The injury to Pacioretty did not look good at all especially with it being the same leg that suffered the torn Achilles last season. He has appeared in five games for the Hurricanes since returning from that injury. While I don’t want to speculate on the extent or talk about what it could be, this is obviously a big blow to a team that has shown a different gear offensively since the 34-year-old forward made his debut earlier this month.
While there’s no disputing that the Hurricanes were a top contender for the Stanley Cup before Pacioretty made his debut, it will be interesting to see if this development causes general manager Don Waddell and company to pursue an additional goal scorer before the trade deadline. Regardless, this is probably the most deflating win the Hurricanes will experience this season given what occurred in the final minute.
Despite the injury to Pacioretty, the Hurricanes are in a good spot to contend for the Stanley Cup this season. They have a slight lead over the New Jersey Devils in the Metropolitan Division and the second-best record in the NHL with 37 games left in the season. I think the Hurricanes will be active at the trade deadline as they look to replace the void left by the Pacioretty injury, but I also think an argument could be made that they are strong enough to challenge the Boston Bruins with the same roster that went on an 11-game winning streak and earned this division lead they currently hold.
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