RALEIGH, N.C. — Without time to make major adjustments, the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes go into their game on Sunday night knowing they have to stick the recent foundations they've built.
That could be the key when the teams collide at PNC Arena.
Both teams had games Saturday night, so whichever side makes the quickest recovery is bound to be in the best position.
Article continues below ...
“We have to use our speed and get some momentum,” Panthers defenseman Jason Demers said. “We have to play tight and then wait for our chances.”
The Hurricanes are coming off a 1-2 road trip in Canada. That trip ended with Saturday night's 2-1 loss at Ottawa.
The Hurricanes were 4-1 during a homestand before that, resulting in the first sustained success of the season.
“We're one of the fastest teams in the league when we (play the right way),” Carolina center Elias Lindholm said. “We need to keep building.”
In the meantime, the Panthers were at home and ended up with a 2-1 shootout victory over Columbus. That means Florida was forced to play some extended minutes in advance of what's likely to be a grueling stretch and the Panthers decided against a morning skate the next morning.
Florida coach Gerard Gallant has been preaching the necessity to stick with the system that has at times served the Panthers well.
Sunday's game is only the second part of a back-to-back set this season for the Hurricanes, who'll have 14 more situations with games on consecutive days before the season concludes.
“You try to take bits and pieces from each game and try to learn from that,” Hurricanes defensemen Justin Faulk said.
Carolina coach Bill Peters has stressed the importance of taking advantage of home games. The team managed to do that in the last homestand.
“We want to establish a good brand of hockey and a tough building to play in,” Hurricanes center Jeff Skinner said. “We want to establish that identity.”
The Panthers, who are beginning a season-long six-game road stretch, have been stressing the message about maintaining a certain style of play.
“We have to stick to our game plan,” Panthers center Denis Malgin said.
The bulk of Carolina's goalie workload had already fallen to Cam Ward, who has had a strong November. But backup Michael Leighton figures to make his first regular-season roster appearance at home for the Florida game.
Before the Hurricanes departed for their trip, backup goalie Eddie Lack sustained a concussion in practice, putting in motion the call-up of Leighton from Charlotte of the American Hockey League.
The Hurricanes played without winger Brock McGinn on Saturday night because of an upper-body injury, so his status could impact the lineup for the Florida game.
Sunday's game marks another return of Panthers winger Jussi Jokinen to Carolina, where he was once a key member of the Hurricanes. These are former Southeast Division rivals, but they're no longer in the same divisions after the latest realignment.