Hurricanes-Blue Jackets Preview
Jeff Skinner's recent offensive outburst has coincided with Carolina's longest winning streak in more than three years, though his solid game in the last meeting with Columbus wasn't enough for the Hurricanes to end their skid against the Blue Jackets.
The visiting Hurricanes seek a sixth straight victory while attempting to halt a five-game losing streak to Columbus on Friday night.
Skinner has seven goals and five assists during a career-best six-game point streak, and he recorded one of each in Thursday's 6-1 victory over Toronto.
Jordan Staal had a goal and three assists for Carolina (19-16-9), which is riding its longest win streak since a seven-game run from Feb. 5-March 4, 2010.
The Hurricanes hadn't played since Sunday after Tuesday's contest with Buffalo was postponed because of bad weather.
"(It) gave us an extra day or two of rest," coach Kirk Muller said. "I think it really helped us. We had fresh legs and everyone contributing."
Elias Lindholm, a 19-year-old rookie drafted fifth overall this past summer, had a goal and two assists in his first game back after missing 10 while playing for Sweden in the World Junior Championships.
The Hurricanes were playing their second straight game without captain Eric Staal, who is nursing a lower-body injury. John-Michael Liles scored his first goal since being acquired from Toronto in a trade Jan. 1.
"It's just nice to be wanted and to feel like I have a place," Liles said. "I think we have a great group of guys on the team - they've welcomed me, and it's been a nice fit so far."
Skinner has averaged one goal over his last 17 games, and he netted two against the Blue Jackets on Dec. 23. Columbus, though, won 4-3 to extend its series winning streak that dates to Carolina's last win Dec. 15, 2005.
Columbus has been dealing with injury troubles all season. Though Matt Calvert is expected to return for this contest after missing the last seven with a shoulder injury, Blake Comeau fell hard in practice Thursday, leaving his status unclear.
"It seems like when one guy comes back, another guy falls," forward Cam Atkinson said.
The Blue Jackets have lost 186 man-games due to injury, which is the fourth-most in the league. Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky made 40 saves Monday in his first game back after missing 14 with a strained groin, and Marian Gaborik is expected to miss another month with a broken collarbone.
Nathan Horton, who signed a seven-year, $37.1 million contract in the offseason but had been out with a shoulder injury, has a goal and an assist in three games after making his team debut Jan. 2.
Coach Todd Richards is hoping his team can make a run once its completely healthy.
"There's been adversity, but I still think we've let some points get away," Richards said. "It's not so much patting ourselves on the back and saying, `Well, we've had a lot of stuff thrown at us. We've dealt with it and we're OK.' To me, you still have to find a way."
It's unclear who will start in net for Carolina after Anton Khudobin made 25 saves Thursday. Cam Ward hasn't played since Dec. 31 because of a lower-body injury.