Raleigh, NC -- The Carolina Hurricanes (36-10-8, 80pts) have clinched the Central Division title. Now, they're looking for more.
Dallas's 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay sealed the Central Division crown for the Hurricanes on Friday night. It's the team's first division title in 15 years.
"It's a great accomplishment because it showed all the work that's gone in from everyone in this organization has paid off to this point," Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind'Amour said of the division title. "Now, there's the next phase that everyone talks about. That's what matters. So, we still have this little window to get through, and that's what we have to try and stay focused on."
Winning the division means that Carolina has secured home-ice for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs. Their opponent in the first round is yet to be determined, but it could be the Nashville Predators.
Nashville (29-23-2, 60pts) is in a tight race for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division. They lead the Dallas Stars by two points; each team has two games left to play.
With Nashville holding the primary tiebreaker over Dallas (Regulation and Overtime Wins), two points would secure the Predators a playoff series against the Canes.
However, Nashville has struggled against Carolina so far this year. They've gone 0-5-1, securing only a single point.
"We have two games left here against a pretty good team. We're going to be ready to go against them and bring everything we've got," Predators' winger Tanner Jeannot said. "We're a good team too, and we know that, and we're going to be playing with confidence. We know what's on the line."
For Carolina, the final two games of the year present a different challenge.
With the division title in hand, it remains to be seen how Carolina will approach the season's final two-game series. Their coach, Rod Brind'Amour, made it clear he wasn't pleased with the team's play in Thursday's 2-1 overtime loss to Chicago.
Asked about the homestand, in which the team earned nine of a possible ten points, Brind'Amour called out the team's performance.
"In the big picture, yes [it was a great homestand]. But tonight, you talk about the process, [it was] crap. That's frustrating, but I get it."
Nonetheless, Thursday's performance extended the Canes' point streak to a franchise-best 13 games.
Brock McGinn (upper body) and Jordan Martinook (lower body) traveled with the team to Nashville. Martinook took line rushes today, and Max McCormick cleared waivers, presumably so Martinook could draw into the lineup.
Alex Nedeljkovic (15-4-3, .932 SV%, 1.89 GAA) will get the start for Carolina. Nedeljkovic has won his last three starts.
Jusse Saros (20-11-1, .927 SV%, 2.32 GAA) should start for Nashville. Saros has been inconsistent recently, giving up six goals to Florida on April 27 and following up the performance with a 28-save shutout.
The Canes' expected lines:
Andrei Svechnikov — Sebastian Aho — Teuvo Teravainen
Nino Niederreiter — Vincent Trocheck — Martin Necas
Jesper Fast — Jordan Staal — Warren Foegele
Jordan Martinook — Steven Lorentz — Morgan Geekie
Jaccob Slavin — Dougie Hamilton
Brady Skjei — Brett Pesce
Jake Bean — Jani Hakanpaa
Injuries: Brock McGinn (upper body), James Reimer (healthy), Cedric Paquette (undisclosed), Jake Gardiner (healthy)
Nashville's expected lines:
Filip Forsberg — Ryan Johansen — Eeli Tolvanen
Calle Jarnkrok — Mikael Granlund — Luke Kunin
Brad Richardson — Erik Haula — Matt Duchene
Yakov Trenin — Colton Sissons — Tanner Jeannot
Roman Josi — Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm — Alexandre Carrier
Ben Harpur — Dante Fabbro
Injuries: Viktor Arvidsson (upper body)