Preview: Devils at Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes are attempting to end the longest active postseason drought in the league but have little margin for error entering the final two games of the regular season. Carolina, which last made the playoffs in 2008-09, is holding down the first wild card in the Eastern Conference entering Thursday's game against the visiting New Jersey Devils.
The Hurricanes won at Toronto on Tuesday to move within two points of Pittsburgh for third place in the Metropolitan Division but are only one point ahead of both Columbus and ninth-place Montreal in a three-way battle for two playoff slots. “We try not look at anything but the game,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It’s getting tough because now everybody is talking about it. It’s obviously right in your face.” The Devils have won two of three meetings this season versus the Hurricanes, who have a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a win Thursday and a loss by Montreal at Washington. New Jersey, which is last in the Metropolitan and has the fewest road wins in the NHL, is 3-1-1 in its last five after posting a 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Monday night.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, TVAS, MSG (New Jersey), FS Carolina
ABOUT THE DEVILS (30-40-10): Forward Kyle Palmieri, the team leader in goals (27) and points (50), sat out Monday's game due to a lower-body injury and will not return for the final two games while defenseman Sami Vatanen is questionable for both. New Jersey has surrendered only four goals in the three meetings against the Hurricanes this season and Cory Schneider, who will get the start Thursday, allowed a pair of goals in a 2-1 loss at Carolina on Nov. 18. Travis Zajac scored Monday and is within two of his first 20-goal campaign since 2009-10.
ABOUT THE HURRICANES (44-29-7): Defenseman Dougie Hamilton continued his second-half revival by scoring twice against the Maple Leafs to give him 18 goals, eclipsing his previous season high of 17 with Calgary last season. "It's exciting. We've been playing playoff hockey for a while now," said Hamilton, who has scored 15 of his goals since the calendar flipped to 2019. "Hopefully we can keep going for two more games and see where that takes us." Jordan Staal had a goal and an assist Tuesday to give him eight points in the last eight games.
1. Hurricanes F Teuvo Teravainen has been held off the scoresheet in four matchups versus New Jersey.
2. Devils F Blake Coleman has a career-high 23 goals but has just one point in the last nine games.
3. Carolina has not named a starter but G Curtis McElhinney has allowed two goals in splitting two decisions versus the Devils this season.
PREDICTION: Panthers 3, Devils 1