The Carolina Hurricanes will be hard-pressed to end an eight-year playoff drought this season, which opens at home against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, but acquisitions such as Justin Williams and goaltender Scott Darling could make a difference. Carolina also boasts a strong top four defensive corps with Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin, providing hope for a club that was challenged offensively with only two players scoring more than 17 goals in 2016-17.
“This is a team on the rise and a team that will surprise a lot of people,” Williams, who won his first Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 before hoisting two more with Los Angeles, told reporters. “You always want to be a part of that and my role on this team will be an important one.” Carolina will also be counting on 22-year-old center Elias Lindholm, who increased his assist total in each of the last three seasons and recorded a team-most 34 in 2016-17. Zach Parise missed Minnesota’s 4-2 loss in Detroit on Thursday with a back injury - the 64th game he has sat out since signing a 13-year, $98 million contract prior to the 2012-13 season - and won’t play Saturday. “You want to go in without nursing something,” Parise told the Pioneer Press. “I want to go in and not have that stuff be at the top of my mind - just go in and relax and play - and that’s what I’m shooting toward.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), FSN Carolinas
ABOUT THE WILD (0-1-0): Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored third-period goals Thursday to make it 2-2, but tallies by Eric Staal and Ryan Suter in the first period were disallowed by goaltender interference. That preceded Minnesota failing to score on a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:37 before allowing two goals in 23 seconds - one on a two-man advantage and another on a 5-on-4. “You have to win the special-teams battle to win games in this league,” Stewart told reporters. “We didn’t score on the 5-on-3, and then we let them get two on theirs. That was huge.”
ABOUT THE HURRICANES (2016-17: 36-31-15, seventh in Metropolitan): Jeff Skinner scored a career-high 37 goals and rookie Sebastian Aho added 24 last season while Williams, 36, scored 24 with Washington - his highest total since scoring a career-high 33 with Carolina in 2006-07. Jordan Staal and Faulk, whose career-high 17 goals last season were tied for second among NHL defensemen, were named co-captains. Darling, who was acquired from Chicago and signed a four-year, $16.6 million contract during the offseason, is expected to start in goal with 12-year Carolina veteran Cam Ward serving as backup.
1. The Wild, who were one of five teams to finish in the top 10 on the power play and short-handed last season, were 0-for-4 with a man advantage and killed 3-of-5 penalties Thursday.
2. Carolina RW Lee Stempniak (16 goals in 2016-17) begins the season on injured reserve with a soreness in his back and hip, and is expected to miss 10-to-14 days.
3. Minnesota has won seven of the last eight meetings, including a split last season with each club winning by two at home. ... The home team is 14-5-1 in the last 20 meetings.
PREDICTION: Hurricanes 3, Wild 2