(Sports Network) - The Carolina Hurricanes may be a longshot to make the
playoffs, but that won't stop them from trying to finish the season strong.
The Hurricanes try to post their longest winning streak in two years this
evening as they battle the Columbus Blue Jackets.
With eight games to play, Carolina is six points behind the Capitals for the
eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes sit
11th overall in the East and have kept pace by posting a 6-2-2 mark over their
last 10 games.
Carolina pushed its winning streak to a season-high four straight games on
Wednesday with a 3-1 victory over Southeast Division-leading Florida. Eric
Staal has his second straight two-goal game, while Joni Pitkanen also scored
in his return to the lineup.
Cam Ward made 30 saves for the Hurricanes, who haven't won five straight since
a seven-game run form Feb. 5-March 4, 2010. They have scored at least one goal
in 10 straight periods.
"It's a tough thing to do, but I think since the All-Star break when we had
the meeting, and let everyone know that we're playing with the big boys now,
we've had a lot of guys step up," said Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller.
Staal has four goals and six points in his past three games, while Pitkanen
scored in his first contest since Dec. 6 after missing the previous 44 games
due to injury.
The Blue Jackets will hobble to the ice this evening with the fewest points in
the NHL and having lost five of their past six games. Columbus was last in
action on Tuesday when it fell behind by three goals early against Chicago en
route to a 5-1 setback.
Steve Mason was tagged for all five goals on 27 shots for the Blue Jackets,
who played without Fedor Tyutin (right hand), Curtis Sanford (left
quadriceps), Derek MacKenzie (concussion) and James Wisniewski (upper body)
due to injury. Columbus set a new club record with 345 man games lost due to
injury this season.
That didn't help the Blue Jackets against a team as talented as the
"They can score often and quickly," Blue Jackets interim head coach Todd
Richards said of the Blackhawks. "I didn't think we were outplayed that badly
in the first period, but we were looking up at a 3-0 game. Our guys fought
through it and tried, but when you spot a team a three-goal lead, especially
the Chicago Blackhawks, it's tough."
Rick Nash snapped a seven-goal goal drought, reaching 25 goals for an eighth
Though the all-time series between the Blue Jackets and Hurricanes is tied at
6-6-0, Columbus has won each of the past four encounters since its last loss
in this series on Dec. 15, 2005 in Carolina.
The Blue Jackets are 3-2-0 versus the Hurricanes at home.
The Sports Network