The Carolina Hurricanes have won two of their first three games this season, but they’re still looking to play the type of game that helped them reach the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
The Hurricanes will try to return to their familiar style of play when they visit the San Jose Sharks in the third game of their six-game road trip on Tuesday night.
Carolina opened the season with a 5-3 win against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday and then blew three three-goal leads on Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings before winning 6-5 in a shootout.
Mistakes finally cost the Hurricanes a victory on Sunday evening when they fell to the Anaheim Ducks 6-3.
“It’s just the beginning of the season, but we’ve been giving up way too much these games,” Carolina forward Martin Necas said. “Usually, when you play against us the last couple seasons, it’s hard to create some chances, and we always play good defense. So far, it’s been kind of not great, too many odd-man rushes.”
The Hurricanes dominated the first five minutes against the Ducks on Sunday evening, but then gave up three goals in a 5:14 span to fall into a 3-0 hole against the second-lowest-scoring team in the NHL last season.
Carolina managed to make it a one-goal game with 4:31 remaining and coach Rod Brind’Amour decided to pull his goalie with just over two minutes left, but Anaheim made him pay, scoring two empty-net goals to secure the victory.
“Obviously, [we] didn’t do well on the goalie pull, but I credit the guys for at least realizing we weren’t going well and they figured a way to try and get back into it,” Brind’Amour said.
The Hurricanes believed they never should have been in a situation where they needed to pull their goalie. Forward Jordan Staal said Carolina needs to get back to playing a hard-nosed style that relies on heavy forechecking and puck retrieval.
“We’re a hard forechecking team that plays a grind game, and that’s what we’ve got to find and get everyone involved and buying into that,” Staal said. “The skill always takes over when we start grinding teams down, but we haven’t done that yet. It’s pretty evident. Saw spurts of it over these first three games, but not consistent enough to win.”
The Sharks opened the season with a 4-1 loss at home against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday and played much better in a 2-1 shootout loss against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.
San Jose has been without center Logan Couture during preseason and through the first two games because of a lower-body injury. Couture, who was second on the Sharks in goals (27) and points (67) last season, suffered a setback during practice last week that will further push back his return.
“Seeing him around here is killing him, but he’s not going to get out there until we’re 100 percent sure that he’s ready to go,” San Jose coach David Quinn said.
Mikael Granlund, one of the players the Sharks were counting on to pick up some slack, also went down with a lower-body injury in the season opener against Vegas and is listed as week to week.
“I think any time you lose two players in one position, you kind of get a chance to assess where you’re at in that position, and that’s what we’ve done as an organization,” Quinn said.