Raleigh, NC -- The Carolina Hurricanes (35-10-7, 77pts) now control their own destiny.
After last night's 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks (22-24-6, 50pts), the Canes now have the inside track on the President's Trophy (awarded to the team that finishes the regular season with the most points in the league).
Carolina has secured at least a point in eleven straight games--two shy of the franchise record of 13 games, set back in 2017. With comparisons to the 2005-06 Stanley Cup-winning team flooding in, Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind'Amour provided some contrast on Tuesday.
"This group is pretty confident; that group was pretty confident," Brind'Amour, captain of the 2006 team, said. "No matter what the game was, [or] how it was played...we always felt like we could win, and I think this group does [too]."
Coming off of a hat-trick last night, Sebastian Aho continues his stellar play. The Finn is in the midst of an eight-game point streak.
"I think the reason we've been able to have success this year, we've been able to stay in the moment," Aho said. "That has been the whole message here."
With only a handful of regular-season games remaining, Brind'Amour has emphasized the Canes' need to keep their collective foot on the gas going into the playoffs.
"Florida's putting the pressure on us; Tampa's putting the pressure on us," Brind'Amour said. "They're all winning their games, which I think actually helps. We have to stay sharp."
In the Central Division race, Carolina holds a two-point edge over Florida and a four-point lead over Tampa Bay. Florida has only two games left to play (both against Tampa Bay). The Lightning have four games left (two against Dallas and two against Florida).
In the President's Trophy race, Carolina leads Vegas by three points. The Golden Knights have one game-in-hand on Carolina.
The Canes got some good injury news yesterday, as Jesper Fast made his return from injury last night. The Swede recorded an assist on Sebastian Aho's empty-netter and had three shots on goal.
Petr Mrazek was on the bench, too, serving as Alex Nedeljkovic's backup.
"[Brady Skjei] will be a game-time decision," Brind'Amour said. "He's a little banged up, nothing serious, but we won't know [if he's playing] until after warm-ups."
Expect Jake Gardiner to draw in for Skjei if necessary.
Brock McGinn (upper body), Cedric Paquette (undisclosed), and Jordan Martinook (lower body) are not expected to play tonight.
Petr Mrazek (5-1-2, .939 SV%, 1.60 GAA) will get the start for Carolina. Mrazek last played on April 19 against Tampa Bay--giving up 3 goals on 36 shots faced.
Kevin Lankinen (16-14-5, .908 SV%, 3.04 GAA) should start for Chicago. Lankinen has given up three or more goals in eight straight games.
The Canes' expected lines:
Andrei Svechnikov — Sebastian Aho — Teuvo Teravainen
Nino Niederreiter — Vincent Trocheck — Martin Necas
Jesper Fast — Jordan Staal — Warren Foegele
Max McCormick — Steven Lorentz — Morgan Geekie
Jaccob Slavin — Dougie Hamilton
Brady Skjei — Brett Pesce
Jake Bean — Jani Hakanpaa
Injuries: Brock McGinn (upper body), Jordan Martinook (lower body), James Reimer (healthy), Cedric Paquette (undisclosed), Jake Gardiner (healthy)
Chicago's expected lines:
Alex Debrincat — Philipp Kurashev — Patrick Kane
Brandon Hagel — Kirby Dach — Vinnie Hinostroza
Dominik Kubalik — Dylan Strome — Adam Gaudette
Mike Hardman — David Kampf — Brett Connolly
Nikita Zadorov — Connor Murphy
Duncan Keith — Wyatt Kalynuk
Riley Stillman — Ian Mitchell
Injuries: Andrew Shaw (concussion), Jonathan Toews (undisclosed), Alex Nylander (knee surgery), Adam Boqvist (wrist), Calvin DeHaan (hip)