The Carolina Hurricanes think they’re in good shape for a playoff push.
The defending Stanley Cup champions look to make up ground in the Eastern Conference when they host the Ottawa Senators Tuesday in the opener of a home-and-home series.
The Hurricanes (32-25-7) are in eighth place in the East, just one point ahead of the New York Islanders for the conference’s final postseason spot. However, Carolina also trails Montreal by just one point for seventh place and is just four points behind first-place Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division.
The Senators (36-22-4) - the second-place club from the Northeast Division - are five points ahead of the Hurricanes.
“Playing back-to-back against Ottawa is good, it can make a big difference in the standings,” Carolina left wing Cory Stillman told the team’s official Web site. “We can almost catch Ottawa, we can catch the team that’s ahead of us. What we’re looking at is we’re trying to move forward every game and trying to move forward in the standings.”
Stillman returned Saturday after missing seven games with an injured knee and just over 12 minutes of Carolina’s 4-1 victory over Atlanta. Eric Cole, who ranks third on the team with 25 goals, remains on injured reserve with a muscle injury near his hip, but the Hurricanes are hoping he will return next week.
“We have to play like every game is the most important,” said Justin Williams, who scored twice against the Thrashers. “We were active all night. We were jumping.”
The Hurricanes tried to help their injury-plagued offense Friday by acquiring Anson Carter from Columbus for a 2008 draft pick. The veteran right wing, who had 10 goals and 17 assists in 54 games with the Blue Jackets, did not register a point or put a shot on net Saturday.
Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said he doesn’t plan on making any more major deals before Tuesday’s trade deadline and is more likely to deal one of Carolina’s 10 defensemen for a draft pick.
“We really aren’t looking at changing our team,” Rutherford said. “Unless something unknowingly comes out of the blue, I don’t see us doing any deal to add anybody.”
The Senators picked up defenseman Lawrence Nycholat from Washington on Monday for defenseman Andy Hedlund and a sixth-round draft pick, but general manager John Muckler also said he doesn’t plan on trading anyone else away as the deadline approaches.
“We have a competitive team, we know that,” coach Bryan Murray told the Senators’ official Web site. “I think the guys have worked fairly hard throughout. We’ll just play the bodies that are there, and I think we’ll compete very well. We have a couple of younger guys in the minors that I think can come up and fill a role.”
Ottawa has won six of its last seven games, including Saturday’s 6-5 victory over Buffalo which moved the Senators within 11 points of the division-leading Sabres. The game came just two days after the teams brawled during Ottawa’s 6-5 shootout loss.
“It was definitely satisfying,” said Senators center Jason Spezza, who scored twice to give him five goals and seven assists during his seven-game point streak. “We wanted to win one and beat these guys.”