Third straight playoff berth in hand, Hurricanes host Red Wings

NHL

The Carolina Hurricanes are back home and playoff eligible as they head down the home stretch of the regular season.

It’s not time to relax with still plenty at stake.

Now it’s a matter of trying to put the final pieces together and regain a healthy lineup.

“We’re trying to win every game,” Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal said. “We want to play our style and stay sharp and do the things we do.”

The Hurricanes take on the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.

Carolina (32-10-7, 71 points) clinched a playoff spot Monday night in an overtime loss at Dallas and then followed that with Tuesday night’s 5-1 road victory over the Stars.

Also Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers also locked up playoff spots, so there’s competition for the next week and a half to determine the Central Division pecking order.

“To this point, you have to give the guys a lot of credit,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said of his players. “Now that’s behind us, we got to focus on these next (group of games) to finish this story, this regular season. There’s a lot at stake still.”

A six-game road trip for Carolina produced a 3-0-3 record, so the Hurricanes return home on an eight-game points streak. Their last loss in regulation came April 12 — at home against Detroit.

The Hurricanes will be in the playoffs for the third consecutive year. That’s a first-time accomplishment since the franchise relocated to North Carolina from Hartford, Conn., prior to the 1997-98 season.

“We have great people here who are committed to doing it right,” Brind’Amour said.

The Red Wings (17-25-9, 43 points) won’t be in the postseason. Detroit lost 1-0 in a shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night, adding to the Wings’ woes this season.

“We can’t change what has happened and we have to move forward,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said.

Even though neither team scored in regulation, there were numerous quality scoring chances in the Detroit-Columbus game. There were lots of free-flowing situations, something that concerns the Red Wings going into their next game.

“Thursday will be a different animal in terms of where Carolina is as a hockey team,” Blashill said. “We can’t play as loose as we did (Tuesday) and expect to win there.”

The Red Wings have won four of the seven meetings with Carolina this season, so those matchups account for nearly one-quarter of their win total.

Carolina has used goalie Alex Nedeljkovic in four of its past five games. That, in part, has happened because of an injury to Petr Mrazek.

The Hurricanes welcomed back left winger Teuvo Teravainen to the lineup Tuesday night after a 25-game absence because of a concussion.

Still, Carolina’s lineup is without wingers Brock McGinn (upper-body injury) and Jordan Martinook (lower-body injury) and defenseman Brady Skjei (concussion).

Thursday night will mark Brind’Amour’s 200th regular-season game as an NHL head coach. His record in those games so far is 116-64-19.

Starting with Thursday night’s matchup, five of the Hurricanes’ last seven regular-season games will be at home.

–Field Level Media

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