Hurricans look for stability vs. Sabres

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes have had extreme results throughout the season but perhaps nothing quite like this week.

And there is no telling if Saturday night’s home game against the Buffalo Sabres at PNC Arena will bring any sense of normalcy for the Hurricanes.

There was Tuesday’s 8-1 loss at Toronto followed by Thursday night’s 4-1 victory at Nashville.

So just keeping it together might look like a challenge at times for the Hurricanes (15-12-7).

“You’ve got to have the ‘pack of wolves’ mentality, right?” Carolina coach Bill Peters said.

It is a pattern that at times might not make sense, but at least the Hurricanes know that their fortunes can change quickly in either direction.

“I think we’ve done that a few times,” forward Derek Ryan said. “We’ve had some poor performances and then bounce back the next game. That builds character and some resiliency. I’m proud of the boys for doing that.”

It also creates some uncertainty about how the team might perform.

Buffalo (9-19-7) has had fewer encouraging moments, though a 4-2 victory Friday night at home against the Philadelphia Flyers provided some positive vibes.

The Sabres, who hold the second-worst record in the NHL, are 1-2-1 in their last four games. The lone point in that stretch before Friday came in an overtime loss Dec. 15 at home to Carolina.

“Obviously trying to find the right formula,” Buffalo coach Phil Housley said. “We’re just trying to play a simple game.”

Housley said good things need to happen for the Sabres, whose confidence has been stunted at times.

“The biggest thing for us is to get a good start,” Housley said. “Try to back the other team off. … Don’t allow their fans and their energy to get any momentum. We’ve got to shoot pucks. We have to keep hammering that message.”

The Hurricanes should know the value of a good start because they’re 13-3-2 when scoring first.

Veteran Cam Ward has been the most consistent goalie for Carolina this month and he could be in line to start for the second game in a row after a strong performance in Thursday night’s victory at Nashville.

“When you get the opportunity to get in, you want to make the most of it and just try to do my job,” Ward said. “Winning is fun. We’re looking to end on a good note against Buffalo before the (holiday) break.”

The Hurricanes are 4-1-0 in their last five games, but they have been outscored 16-15 during that span because of the misery in Toronto.

“Obviously things didn’t go well in Toronto and we were embarrassed because of it,” Ward said.

The Sabres are playing on back-to-back nights, so that could put the lineup in flux.

“It’s some difficult decisions, but it also breeds some good internal competition and they all have to be sharp,” Housley said.

This is only the second home game in a three-week period for the Hurricanes, who are beginning a three-game homestand.

For Buffalo, this game begins a three-game road stretch.