RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings — and have for most of the year — yet the club’s home record against some of the best teams in the Western Conference is quite impressive.
The Minnesota Wild, second in the West, dropped a 3-1 decision to the Hurricanes on Thursday night. Carolina has also defeated Chicago, San Jose and Edmonton — the other top teams in the West — this season at PNC Arena.
So, even though Nashville comes in riding a three-game winning streak and fresh off a win at Washington, the Predators are on spoiler alert, especially since Carolina beat Nashville 3-2 in early November in a shootout.
“There aren’t many games left so it’s fun to battle against all the good teams and try to enjoy every game and try to get some wins,” said Carolina center Elias Lindholm.
The Hurricanes have just 70 points and appear destined to miss the playoffs for an eighth straight season. However, Carolina is 3-0- 2 over a five-game span in eight days.
“We’re still pushing hard, but we’re got to string some wins together and play the right way,” said coach Bill Peters, whose team is eight points out of a postseason position. “During the recent five-game stretch in the two games we lost we never trailed until the game was over in overtime, so it was a good segment. Now, it gets a little tougher, but I like the way we’re playing.”
One player who has made a difference recently is Lindholm, the fifth overall pick in 2013, who got off to a slow start but now leads the Hurricanes with 29 assists and is riding a five-game point streak.
“He plays hard,” Peters said of Lindholm. ‘Competitive people make it hard on you. A lot of people want to line up and have an easy night — no bumps, no bruises and wake up the next morning feeling good. That’s not the way Lindy plays. Lindy packs a load, he plays hard, he competes, he is hacking and whacking. He’s really coming on and I like his game.”
Nashville coach Peter Laviolette won a Stanley Cup in Carolina in 2006 and brings in a team that remains in the thick of the playoff chase with St. Louis for the final spot in the Central Division.
“The Predators are a good team and they’re playing well, and Filip Forsberg is as hot as anybody,” Peters said. “But we played them so long ago I’ve got a get acquainted with Nashville again.”
Laviolette wanted his team to tighten up its defense after a 5-4 overtime loss to Winnipeg earlier in the week. The coach saw an upgrade in Nashville’s 2-1 win at Washington.
“We lost our swagger defensively against Winnipeg,” he said. “Against Washington we tightened things up. It’s about our attitude. You need to be tough in certain areas and I think we got better at that.”
Meanwhile, Carolina center Lucas Wallmark was sent back to the minors on Friday after registering one assist in three games. Wallmark did impress Peters with his work in the faceoff circle, winning 8 of 12 against the Wild for a 66 percent clip in his brief stint in the NHL.