The Carolina Hurricanes have played well on the road this season and hope that trend continues when they start a quick two-game trip Thursday with a matchup against the improving Colorado Avalanche. The Hurricanes are 3-2-0 away from home, with a pair of one-goal losses and a victory at Toronto, as they attempt to snap out of a disappointing 1-3-1 funk.
Carolina, which ranked 24th in the league in scoring through Tuesday, dropped a 2-1 decision to St Louis on Friday before coughing up a late third-period lead and falling 4-3 to Anaheim in a shootout two days later. Colorado started the season fast, then lost three in a row and now appears to be getting back on track as it moved over .500 (6-5-0) by knocking off Chicago 6-3 on Saturday for its second win in three games. Mikko Rantanen took over the team lead at 10 points after posting two goals and an assist against the Blackhawks while playing with Nathan MacKinnon and captain Gabriel Landeskog on the top line. “Complete team effort, but our big guns led the charge,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar told reporters after the win. “That line - Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen - they were flying right out of the gates. They wanted to make sure we got off (on) the right foot and they led us to victory.”
TV: 9 p.m. ET, FSN Carolinas, Altitude (Colorado)
ABOUT THE HURRICANES (4-4-2): Jeff Skinner (10 points) has scored in back-to-back games, pushing his team-high total to seven goals, and Justin Williams (eight points) has notched three assists in his last two contests. Coach Bill Peters has switched up his defensive pairings, with Noah Hanifin joining Trevor van Riemsdyk and Justin Faulk playing with Haydn Fleury, while Roland McKeown was recalled from Charlotte of the American Hockey League on Wednesday due to the uncertain availability of Brett Pesce (concussion). Carolina, which is just 2-for-18 on the power play over its last six games, needs more from Sebastian Aho (five assists) as he has not scored after recording 24 goals in 2016-17.
ABOUT THE AVALANCHE (6-5-0): Physical defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who signed a contract just as training camp began and has notched one goal and one assist in eight games, was a healthy scratch for the last two contests. “We’ve got a young group of D-men, and some guys are still trying to prove themselves and where exactly they shake out in our lineup and what they do for us consistently. Z falls into that category,” Bednar told reporters. “He’s got a lot of potential. He’s been scratched just based on performance.” Matt Duchene has gone five games without a goal and has registered only three points in his last seven contests.
1. Colorado G Semyon Varlamov, who was rested Saturday after giving up seven goals in a loss to Vegas the previous night, is expected to start against Carolina.
2. The Hurricanes are the least-penalized team in the league (46 minutes) and have not been short-handed in their last two games.
3. Avalanche C Rocco Grimaldi registered a goal and an assist in his season debut on Saturday for his second career multi-point performance.
PREDICTION: Hurricanes 4, Avalanche 3