While the season’s first two games have yielded vastly different results for the Florida Panthers, the Carolina Hurricanes find themselves in an all-too-familiar situation.
The hard-luck Hurricanes resume their quest for their first points of 2015-16 when they host the Panthers on Tuesday night.
Carolina (0-2-0) started 0-6-2 en route to a last-place finish in the Metropolitan Division in 2014-15 and is off to another slow beginning, having been dealt one-goal losses to Nashville and Detroit. Like last season, injuries have played a role in the poor start, with defenseman James Wisniewski tearing his ACL in the season opener and center Riley Nash to miss 10 to 14 days after hurting his shoulder during Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Red Wings.
The Hurricanes did display some positives in the last contest, outshooting Detroit 47-19 and owning a 2-1 lead before the Red Wings scored three straight third-period goals.
Cam Ward finished with just 15 saves and Carolina converted only 1 of 6 power-play opportunities.
"We controlled the whole first period and most of the second as well. A couple key mistakes cost us," captain Eric Staal said.
Ward will give way to Eddie Lack Tuesday as the latter makes his first start since being acquired from Vancouver for two picks during June’s draft. Lack went 18-13-4 with a 2.45 goals-against average in his second NHL season in 2014-15.
Florida (1-1-0) improved from 66 points to 91 during coach Gerard Gallant’s debut season and began this one with a flourish, setting a modern era record with four goals during the first 6:41 of Saturday’s 7-1 rout of Philadelphia. It was a far different outcome in Monday’s finale of the home-and-home series, as Michal Neuvirth recorded 31 saves and helped thwart six Panthers’ power-play chances in a 1-0 Flyers’ win.
”We knew it wasn’t going to be like the first game at home but we still had some chances,” forward Jonathan Huberdeau said.
Roberto Luongo followed up a 39-save effort in the opener with 32 on Monday, but is expected to be rested in favor of Al Montoya Tuesday.
Montoya is 0-2-1 with a 2.97 GAA in three career starts against Carolina but made 22 saves after replacing an injured Luongo in the second period of a 1-0 home win on Nov. 26.
The Panthers outscored Carolina 9-1 in three 2014-15 meetings and can record their first streak of four consecutive regulation wins in the series.
Brandon Pirri had two goals and an assist in last season’s matchups and Vincent Trocheck, who had a career-high four points in Friday’s opener, notched two goals and an assist in a 6-1 victory in the most recent on April 2.
Jaromir Jagr, who scored his 723rd and 724th career goals on Friday, had two with two assists in five games against Carolina last season.
Tuesday’s game will be the first between 2015 Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad and Hurricanes rookie Noah Hanifin, the first defensemen selected in the past two drafts. The 18-year-old Hanifin, taken fifth overall, earned his first NHL point with an assist against Detroit.