Predators host Hurricanes in final tuneup before playoff showdown
The Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators will finish the regular season with Monday night’s meeting in Nashville.
That’s merely an appetizer for the main feast.
The teams will open the Central Division playoffs against each other. The dates haven’t been announced.
The Predators were the last team to clinch a postseason spot in the division, doing so with a 3-1 home victory against the Hurricanes on Saturday night.
“It was a playoff atmosphere out there (Saturday),” Hurricanes center Morgan Geekie said. “I think we can take another step in the right direction and continue to get better against these guys.”
That result ended Carolina’s 13-game points streak, a string that had matched the franchise’s all-time mark. The Predators appeared to be the more motivated team Saturday.
“We had to win to get in,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “You’re also playing the team we’re going to play. Things get elevated in the playoffs, but I think that was a good step.”
The Hurricanes clinched the top seed in the Central Division on Friday when the Tampa Bay Lightning lost to Dallas.
Nashville has won only one of the seven meetings with Carolina this season. Some adjustments are to be expected from both teams.
“We know what they’re doing,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I don’t think there are a lot of secrets. … I think the process is what it is. We have to get through the next game and then crank it up.”
Hynes said there’s a natural alteration in mindset for the regular-season finale now that a spot in the postseason has been reserved.
“It has been a hard-fought battle to get where we are,” Hynes said. “We were so focused on (Saturday’s) game. The way that we played, now there are some things we can take into consideration (for Monday).”
Of utmost concern for the Hurricanes is the status of defenseman Jaccob Slavin, who exited in the first period Saturday with a lower-body injury.
“It was definitely something that he tweaked,” Brind’Amour said. “A little bit alarming there for sure. This is exactly what you wouldn’t want to happen in these kind of games. … I’m hopeful that it’s nothing too serious.”
Brind’Amour said other injured Hurricanes appear on pace to return to action, at least by the playoffs. That list could include forwards Brock McGinn, Jordan Martinook and Cedric Paquette. It’s unclear if they would be used Monday night in a tuneup.
Carolina has lost consecutive games — including Thursday night in overtime to Chicago — for just the third time since mid-March.
“More importantly is going to be for us to finish strong,” Brind’Amour said. “We don’t want to pick up any (bad habits). We don’t want to derail a real good season we’ve had to date by kind of finishing iffy.”
One of the Carolina-Nashville games went into overtime before the Hurricanes won, so the Predators have three points across those first seven games compared with Carolina’s 12 points.
The other first-round series in the Central Division will pit Tampa Bay against the Florida Panthers.
–Field Level Media