Hurricanes not looking ahead with Rangers up next
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Just because the Carolina Hurricanes pushed themselves into the top eight in the Eastern Conference briefly during the weekend doesn't mean they should be consumed by where they sit along the playoff line.
They're aware of the situation as they head down the stretch.
"We don't talk about it, but everyone knows where we're at," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said.
It's more about taking care of business on the ice, like in Tuesday night's game against the visiting New York Rangers in Raleigh, N.C.
The Hurricanes (33-22-6, 68 points) are riding a 16-5-1 wave across their last 22 games. That has put them squarely in the playoff conversation.
"At what point does it matter? It matters at the end of the year," Brind'Amour said. "It counts in about a month and a half."
But peeking at the situation is going to happen.
"Everybody has our eye on that because we want to be in the playoffs," Carolina left winger Brock McGinn said.
The Rangers (25-25-8, 58) complete a four-game road stretch with Tuesday night's game. They're 3-4-1 this month after Sunday's 6-5 loss at Pittsburgh, in which they erased a 3-1 lead before allowing three third-period goals.
"We don't quit. We keep coming," Rangers coach David Quinn said. "We have to stop digging ourselves those holes. Don't let the situation rattle you."
Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek posted a 27-save shutout of the Rangers on Feb. 8 in New York. He's coming off his second shutout of the month Saturday night when he blanked the Dallas Stars, stopping 33 shots.
"He was amazing," McGinn said. "We really feed off that, and it gives our team a lot of energy."
Even while winning the first two games of the three-game homestand, the Hurricanes have been outshot by the Edmonton Oilers (41-27) and Stars (33-27). That's why the steady -- and sometimes outstanding -- play from Mrazek and goaltender Curtis McElhinney has been so crucial.
"Giving us a chance when we're not at our best," Brind'Amour said.
New York right winger Mats Zuccarello has cranked up the offense recently. He has compiled seven points in the past four games.
"He has played really hard," Quinn said. "He has played well. That line has been good obviously."
Zuccarello is joined by left winger Chris Kreider and center Mika Zibanejad. In their last 14 games together, they've combined for 58 points.
Zuccarello, in particular, has been strong in games against Carolina, with 29 points in 30 career outings. He has more points against the Hurricanes than any other team in the league.
Rangers right winger Jesper Fast missed the Pittsburgh game because of illness. The New York lineup was also without defenseman Brady Skjei, who was held out with a lower-body injury. Quinn said Skjei, who suffered the ailment Friday at Buffalo, could be ready for the Carolina game after practicing Monday.
Carolina left winger Micheal Ferland has played in 300 career games. Fifty of those have been with the Hurricanes as he has racked up 33 points in those outings after only 89 points in his first 250 career games.
Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (concussion) returned to practice this week and shed his non-contact sweater on Monday, but it's unclear when he'll be back in the lineup. He last played Dec. 22.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 18, 2019