The Carolina Hurricanes have been without one of their best players for a week, but they haven’t missed a beat.
The team’s depth has shown up in big ways.
The Hurricanes take a nine-game points streak into Saturday night’s game against the visiting Dallas Stars in Raleigh, N.C. It is the third season in a row Carolina has established a points streak of at least nine games.
“You’re always counting on 20 guys,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “You can’t always have the same guys being the heroes.”
Sebastian Aho has missed three games with a lower-body injury, and he is not expected to play Saturday against the Stars or Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In Carolina’s most recent game, veteran forward Derek Stepan notched his first goal of the season and Stefan Noesen scored on penalty shot in a 3-2 win at home against Seattle. These fourth-line contributions are adding up for the Hurricanes.
“Fourth lines are huge, especially in the second half of the season,” Stepan said. “Maybe we timed it perfectly.”
The Stars have won their past two games – most recently a 2-1 win in Washington on Thursday night. They began their current five-game trip with a 2-1 loss in Pittsburgh, then won at New Jersey 4-1.
“This is obviously a tough trip,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “The three teams we’ve played so far and then Carolina coming next. That might be as tough of a grouping that we’ve had so far.”
The Stars are using this road stretch as a barometer of where they stand. Four of their past five games overall have been decided by one-goal margins, and Dallas has won four of them (two in overtime).
“Just come out and try to have a strong third (period),” Dallas defenseman Colin Miller said. “You’re going to win in all different ways in this league.”
Dallas made in-game adjustments to line combinations, tweaking three of the lines Thursday night.
“That’s one of the things you have in your bag as a coach,” DeBoer said.
Carolina’s depth has included some solid work from center Jack Drury, who has played in 19 NHL games. He and Jordan Martinook shared the team lead with five shots on goal Thursday night.
Drury has fit in well so far.
“It’s a big jump. I’m playing him for a reason,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s certainly getting more comfortable on a day-to-day basis in this league, and I think he’ll just continue to get better.”
Stepan is considered a steady influence in the Carolina lineup and getting on the scoresheet occasion can help.
“Eventually, it’s going to go in for you,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s not playing on the power play. He’s not playing a ton of minutes and I’m not expecting him to score a ton of goals. I just want him to … chip in, and their line was noticeable almost every shift. He was a big part of that.”
Saturday’s game is part of a stretch for Carolina with seven of eight games on home ice, where the Hurricanes have played only 10 of their first 29 games of the season. They are 6-3-1 at home.
–Field Level Media