The Carolina Hurricanes entered their current road trip winless in 13 contests outside of Raleigh, but some improved play has earned them three points against three of the Eastern Conference’s best teams.
They’ll try to continue their turnaround from a woeful start as they close the four-game swing Saturday night by facing the Ottawa Senators for the first time this season.
An 0-10-3 record in their first 13 road games was one of Carolina’s many problems during the team’s early stumble - a surprise after the club reached the East finals last season.
But the Hurricanes (7-18-6) ended that skid with a 3-2 win at Pittsburgh on Monday. After a narrow loss at New Jersey on Wednesday, they challenged East-leading Washington in a 4-3 overtime defeat Friday.
With goalie Cam Ward(notes) and star center Eric Staal(notes) both back after injuries sidelined them for most of November, Carolina is hoping to climb out of the conference’s cellar, and Staal said the team wasn’t satisfied with the point it earned against the Capitals.
“For us, right now, one point doesn’t do much,” Staal said. “It was tough to lose in overtime.”
The Hurricanes will try for more at Ottawa, even though the Senators (15-11-4) have the second-best home record in the East at 10-4-3. They had won five straight at Scotiabank Place before a 4-1 loss to Montreal on Tuesday.
Ottawa bounced back with a 2-0 victory at Philadelphia on Thursday. While the Senators scored two or fewer goals for the sixth time in nine games, Brian Elliott(notes) made 23 saves for his second NHL shutout and the team’s first this season.
“No one really cares about a shutout if you let a couple of goals in the next night,” Elliott told the Senators’ official Web site. “It’s something that I want to keep going and hopefully, the guys in the locker room will keep up their strong play in front of me.”
Still, Elliott could use more help from some of the Senators’ bigger offensive weapons. Jason Spezza(notes), a 30-goal scorer each of the last three seasons, has three in 28 games, and newcomer Alex Kovalev(notes) has not scored since Oct. 29.
Owner Eugene Melnyk didn’t name names, but said he’s looking for improvement from some of Ottawa’s stars.
“Thirty games in, me and Kovy have seven goals combined. We expect more of ourselves, too,” Spezza said. “There’s a lot of hockey left, but we definitely want to get going. It’s not fun. It gets masked a little bit when you’re winning games, but we know we’ve got to contribute a little more.”
The home team has won the last six meetings between the Senators and Hurricanes. Ward was pulled from his last start in Ottawa after allowing three goals on nine shots in the first period of a 4-2 loss on Feb. 24.
Ward, who stopped 36 shots Friday in his second game following a month-long absence due to a cut leg, is still looking for his first win since Oct. 9 against Florida. He is 0-8-4 in his last 13 starts.