Hurricanes, Avalanche still in playoff picture

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche have something in common heading into Saturday night’s game at PNC Arena.

They’ve done as much sputtering as they have spurting in the last week or so and it has prevented them from finding much traction in their respective conference playoff chases.

But they’ve mixed in enough good results to keep hope alive. One of them will have a little more to build on after this matchup.

“We have to play the way we’re designed to play,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said.

The Hurricanes are coming off Friday night’s 4-1 victory against Vancouver, an outcome that snapped a three-game losing streak.

The Avalanche lost 6-1 on Thursday night at St. Louis for their second setback in three games.

“Grab some positives,” Blues coach Jared Bednar said of what must be taken from an otherwise frustrating performance.

Before the Vancouver-Carolina game on Friday night, the Avalanche held a practice session at the arena.

The Hurricanes have struggled at times early in games and now they’ll be taking on an opponent that already has been in town waiting to play.

“Our starts need to be better, no matter if we’re playing a team that’s on a back-to-back or not a back-to-back,” Peters said prior to Friday night’s game. “Our starts need to be better so we’ll focus on that.”

That focus apparently worked because the Hurricanes posted three first-period goals, including Brett Pesce’s tally just 14 seconds into the game. That marked the fastest goal to begin a game by a defenseman in franchise history.

This will be the seventh game of Carolina’s season-long eight-game homestand.

The Avalanche go to Buffalo to wrap up a three-game road trip Sunday, so this lines up as an important stretch.

“We know we’ve got to get two of three on this road trip,” Colorado left winger Gabriel Landeskog said. “We’ve got a back-to-back coming up.”

Colorado defeated Carolina 5-3 at home in early November. That night, Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward took the loss.

Ward figures to be in the nets for the rematch, though it might be more complicated after the Hurricanes went with Scott Darling in Friday night’s victory.

This will be Carolina’s second straight game against a team in the bottom portion of the Western Conference standings.

Hurricanes right winger Sebastian Aho hit the 20-goal mark Friday, becoming the first Carolina player in six years to reach 20 goals in each of his first two NHL seasons.

Earlier Friday, the Hurricanes assigned forwards Josh Jooris and Marcus Kruger to the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers after they passed through waivers. Those are significant moves following last weekend when Peters vowed changes needed to be made if the team doesn’t snap out of it.

“It’s the part of year we’re at,” Peters said of the timing of the moves.

Kruger logged 48 games and Jooris played 30 games this season with Carolina. They each had six points.

The starting time for Saturday’s game was pushed back to 8 p.m. ET to accommodate a mid-afternoon college basketball game at the arena.