RALEIGH — Carolina Hurricanes center Jeff Skinner might have uttered the understatement of the NHL season Monday night, when he looked ahead to Tuesday’s game with the New York Islanders.
“I think going in (Tuesday), both teams will probably want to tighten up a little bit,” Skinner said.
That was putting it mildly after the Hurricanes outlasted the Islanders, 8-4, in a wild back-and-forth affair at Barclays Center on Monday night. New York will look to exact some revenge when the teams square off in the rematch at PNC Arena.
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By remaining unbeaten against the Islanders (2-0-1) this season, the Hurricanes (28-27-11) kept alive their flickering playoff hopes while dealing a damaging blow to the postseason aspirations possessed by New York (32-25-11), which could have moved into sole possession of the second and final wild card in the Eastern Conference with a win on Monday.
Instead, the Islanders are tied for ninth place with the Tampa Bay Lightning, one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“We just made tomorrow the biggest game of the year,” Islanders interim head coach Doug Weight said. “For all intents and purposes, it’s going to dictate a lot of what’s going to happen the next month. We’ve got to win.”
The Hurricanes, who are 14th in the 16-team Eastern Conference and trail the Maple Leafs by nine points, know they’ll get a focused, if not downright angry, Islanders team on Tuesday.
“They’re going to come back, probably, with a much stronger game tomorrow night,” said Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin, who authored his first career hat trick Monday. “We just have to match it, just weather the storm maybe for a little bit and then just take it to them.”
The Hurricanes may benefit Tuesday from Monday’s onslaught against Islanders goalies Jean-Francois Berube and Thomas Greiss. Berube drew his first start in 10 games as New York hoped to rest Greiss for the second night of the back-to-back set, but Weight pulled Berube after he allowed four goals. Greiss, who was pulled in his most recent start against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, then gave up four goals on 20 shots.
Greiss is likely to start against Hurricanes backup goalie Eddie Lack after No. 1 net-minder Cam Ward earned the win Monday by recording 23 saves. Lack took the loss in his most recent start and appearance March 7, when he made 22 saves as Carolina fell to the Colorado Avalanche, 3-1.
The Hurricanes are playing the same opponent on back-to-back nights for the first time this season. This is the second time the Islanders have faced the same team on consecutive nights. New York won the back end of a home-and-home with the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 19, when it earned a 6-4 win at Barclays Center a night after falling, 3-2, at Prudential Center.
“We’re on a back-to-back, so are they,” Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic said following Monday’s loss. “We’ve got to do better.”