Hurricanes on high alert vs. desperate Flyers
The Carolina Hurricanes are in playoff mode even if they're not certain they'll be in the playoffs.
It's a necessary mindset for the Hurricanes, who are clinging to Eastern Conference playoff position with slightly more than a week remaining in the regular season.
There's a game against the playoff-hopeful Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon at PNC Arena that figures to factor into the pecking order.
"You have to look at it as playoff hockey already," Carolina right winger Nino Niederreiter said.
The Hurricanes are trying to stay in front of the Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets. Two of those three teams are likely to end up in the playoffs.
The Flyers, who have five games remaining, aren't totally out of the mix, though they have work to do. They'll enter Saturday's game nine points behind the Hurricanes and eight behind both Columbus and Montreal.
So anything other than a perfect mark plus significant help will keep Philadelphia from gaining entry to the postseason.
"I think everyone has pride in here and wants to win games," Flyers center Sean Couturier said. "It's a lot more fun to win games. We need to finish strong and build something here."
The Flyers are coming off Wednesday night's 5-4 shootout victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That was an uplifting result for a team on the verge of elimination.
The Flyers have made it this far without being mathematically eliminated so they would like to extend the possibility of slipping into the playoffs as long as possible.
"We just know what's at stake every game now," Philadelphia right winger Travis Konecny said.
The Hurricanes used a couple of comebacks in the last homestand to pick up much-needed team points.
Saturday's game will be the second-to-last home outing for Carolina.
"They know what's at stake," Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said of his team.
With consecutive losses to the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals this week, the Hurricanes suffered consecutive defeats in regulation for the first time since Jan. 15 and 18. The team hasn't encountered a stretch of three straight games without a team point since October.
"There's no time to feel sorry for ourselves," Hurricanes left winger Jordan Martinook said. "We just have to the positive mindset that we're going to push forward. We're in a good spot."
Brind'Amour said the Hurricanes played well in Thursday's game, yet didn't get the desired result.
"It hurts tons (when you lose these games)," Brind'Amour said. "We were invested ... It's tough this time of the year with everything going on. If we play like that the remaining games, I think we'll be in good shape."
Carolina won back-to-back games against the Flyers earlier this season, outscoring Philadelphia by a combined 8-4. The teams haven't met in nearly three months.
The teams also meet next Saturday to close the regular season in Philadelphia.
That could be a huge game as well.
"It will probably be decided on the last game and we have to be prepared for that," Niederreiter said.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 29, 2019