Hurricanes ride momentum, hot Khudobin to win over Predators
RALEIGH, N.C. — Sometimes, you don’t mess with success.
And sometimes, you can’t explain it either.
Considering the number of the times the Hurricanes (18-16-9) have seen a close game slip away, they’re not going to apologize for getting a few breaks during a streak they pushed to four games with a 2-1 win Sunday over the Predators. Or for wanting to stay with what’s working.
Head coach Kirk Muller said that’s part of the reason he went with Anton Khudobin in goal for the third straight game, and part of why he didn’t have to change his lineups much as the game wore on.
"Momentum is a big thing. He’s had lots of free time this season, so he should be fresh," Muller said. "We want to push from now to the Olympic break. So we just took a chance, thinking it’s three in four nights for him. He hasn’t played much, but he’s been playing well. Just went for it."
Khudobin sat out over 30 games with a lower-body injury and is just now getting back to the lineup.
He’s 5-0-0 as a starter, and he stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced vs. the Predators. The only goal he allowed was on a power play.
Even after all that time off, he’s not tired after his third game in a row. He was going stir-crazy with all that time off, and he’s just grateful to be back on the ice.
"I just was really, really pumped before the first game. I tried to put my emotions back in my head and I tried to focus on stopping the pucks," Khudobin said.
In his house alone during his time off, he got so bored he bought some Legos to play with. And he spent 12 hours one day building a truck with a remote controller.
And now that he’s back on the ice, he just wants to help the team as much as he can. Muller said the team is really trying to make a push for points before the Olympic break, and riding the hot goalie is going to be a big part of that. Right now, that’s Khudobin.
"Well, we know the situation that every game right now is really important for us," Khudobin said. "So we just pretty much go out there, win or die."
And Jeff Skinner certainly isn’t going to apologize for getting a few breaks to go his way, either.
Especially the one where a puck that hit him in the face hit his visor and deflected off of it, instead striking him under his nose. What could have been a much worse injury ended up just being a fat lip.
Them’s the breaks, though — when you’re losing, seemingly nothing can go right. And when you’re winning, everything does. But the team’s play has plenty to do with it.
"I think you sort of see it when we’re going through sort of a tough stretch, losing by one goal. It really only takes sort of that one play a couple minutes to let off your game and teams in the league are so good that they can hurt you. So it’s just sort of being consistent in our game," Skinner said.
He’s been red-hot for the ‘Canes, scoring a goal in 16 straight games (and 20 of the last 32). And he scored the go-ahead (and game-winning) goal for the Hurricanes in the third period.
"I just keep trying to hit the net. (Tuomo Ruutu) made a great pass to me there and I just tried to get it through to the net," Skinner said, more sheepish than he should be. "I think it might have went through their D-man’s legs. Sometimes, that’s just the way it goes. You go through a tough stretch and you seem to hit a post or not get any bounces, and sort of turns around in a good stretch like this."