After a disappointing result in Wednesday night’s contest against Philadelphia, the Hurricanes will take on another Metro Division foe from Pennsylvania in the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.
Carolina enters the second game of a five game homestand on a losing note and at 9-7 overall, still five points behind the New York Rangers.
The Hurricanes are just 3-3 over their last six contests, while the loss to the Flyers marked their first home defeat of the season.
Sebastian Aho and Jesperi Kotkaniemi sit tied for the team lead in points with 13, while Teuvo Teravainen maintains the scoring advantage with nine goals.
Although they were unable to produce multiple goals in Wednesday’s defeat, defense and goaltending have been the Achilles’ heel for Carolina.
Combine an early season injury to Brett Pesce and rotating in new faces in Dmitry Orlov and Tony DeAngelo, and the struggles on the blue line make some sense.
However, there has been little consistency on a day-to-day basis, and poor play in the defensive zone has directly led to goals for the opposition.
Plenty of these mistakes have led to goals allowed that do not fall on the shoulders of the Hurricanes’ goaltenders, but they have also seen poor play in the early going.
With the absence of Freddie Andersen, both netminders in Antti Raanta and Pyotr Kochetkov have allowed more goals than expected.
Raanta has seen 19 shots reach the back of the net of an expected 15.6, which ranks 63rd in the NHL. Kochetkov, who ranks 64th in goals above expected, has surrendered 14 goals to opponents.
After Kochetkov has taken over in net in the last two contests, it is expected that Antti Raanta will start in goal for Carolina.
For the Penguins, the defeat marked the end of a five-game winning streak after a slow start to the season. They currently sit two points behind Rod Brind’Amour’s squad with a record of 8-7.
Sidney Crosby has continued to produce in his 19th NHL season, leading Pittsburgh with 20 points in 15 contests. His 10 goals are first on the roster, while his 57 shot attempts also rank first.
Twelve different skaters have scored a goal for the Penguins, while Crosby has netted a point in 10 consecutive games.
Defenseman Marcus Pettersson sits tied for fourth in the league with a +/- of 12, as Pittsburgh has allowed the fourth fewest goals in the Eastern Conference (42).
Both teams have turned in inconsistent play this season, as the Penguins sit at 6-4 over their last 10 games despite the recent winning streak, while Carolina is 1-2 over their last three contests.
Although it is just game No. 17 for the Hurricanes and No. 16 for Pittsburgh, Saturday’s matchup is critical to finding a groove.
A loss for Carolina could halt any chance of a strong homestand that sees them creep back to the top of the Metro, while a second straight defeat for the Penguins could see their play revert back to their previous 3-6 record.
Puck drop is set for 7:00pm at PNC Arena.