Now is the time for the first-place Carolina Hurricanes to make sure everything is headed in the proper direction.
Avoiding a late-season slide is high on the to-do list for the Hurricanes as they conclude an eight-game homestand Saturday night against the Nashville Predators at Raleigh, N.C.
"We're getting down to the end of the season and you want to get hot leading into the playoffs," Hurricanes left winger Warren Foegele said. "We've just got to start moving forward. We want to get rolling this time of year."
The Hurricanes made a step in that direction Thursday night by breaking a two-game losing streak in defeating the Predators 4-1. That outcome came with a rush of three goals in a span of eight minutes across the first two periods, with strong play the rest of the way.
That eased some concerns that had developed with the successive losses to the last-place Detroit Red Wings. The Hurricanes are 4-2-1 on the homestand.
"We needed that kind of effort," Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "Usually when you have that kind of effort, the chances go way up."
The Predators have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL. They have moved into playoff position by winning 13 of their last 17 games. Notably in that stretch, they have won all four games that have gone to overtime -- including three by shootout.
"You don't want to get too high," said Nashville coach John Hynes, whose team is 0-4-1 against Carolina this season. "You don't want to get too low."
Predators forward Erik Haula, a former Carolina player, said there's a good blueprint for Nashville to follow.
"You have to go back and look at the things that make you successful," Haula said.
Sorting out problems with the power play is bound to be one of the priorities going into Saturday night's rematch with the Hurricanes. The Predators were 0-for-4 on power plays in their most-recent game, putting them at a combined 0-for-12 in the last five games.
Hynes rattled off some of the reasons for the shortcomings. The list began with something that seemed obvious to him: "We didn't win many faceoffs on power plays."
Carolina winger Andrei Svechnikov scored for the first time in eight games. His goal 14 seconds into the second period made the score 2-0 and sent the Hurricanes on their way. They are hoping it will get him cranked up for an extended period.
Brind'Amour called him one of the best players on the ice for the last two periods Thursday.
"Hopefully, it's going to get me going and I will try my best next game," Svechnikov said. "We have to get going and try to find our best game before playoffs."
The Hurricanes liked what they saw in the team debut of defenseman Jani Hakanpaa, who was acquired in a trade earlier in the week from the Anaheim Ducks. Still, Brind'Amour said it will take time for Hakanpaa to find a groove with his new team.
"He's a big man, gets in the way," Brind'Amour said of the 6-foot-5, 218-pound Hakanpaa. "That's one of the things I noticed right away."
The Predators are looking to fine-tune areas as well.
"This time of the year all the games probably are more emotional because of where you're at," Hynes said.
While the Hurricanes are juggling the goalie rotation among three players, it's possible that Petr Mrazek could be back in the nets after Thursday's victory, when he made 19 saves and improved to 5-1-1 on the season with a 1.41 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. He's 10-1-0 all-time vs. Nashville.
--Field Level Media