Hurricanes-Wild Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 23, 2013
The Carolina Hurricanes have looked quite comfortable away from home in October, and in the next two nights they'll get a couple of more chances to prove their early road play isn't a fluke. They're hoping their early woes against the Western Conference are just that. The Hurricanes look for their first four-game road winning streak in more than 30 months Thursday night as they try to avoid dropping all four of their matchups against the West when they face the Minnesota Wild. Carolina (4-2-3) lost nine of its final 11 road games last season en route to finishing with the East's third-fewest points, but it's having no such issues away from home early in 2013-14. After falling 5-2 at Pittsburgh on Oct. 8, the Hurricanes have won their last three road contests. Those have all been by a goal apiece - seven of Carolina's first nine have been decided by one goal - including last Thursday's 3-2 victory in Toronto and Saturday's 4-3 win at the New York Islanders. "We've played a lot of consistent hockey so far. We're working hard for 60 minutes," center Jordan Staal said after scoring his first goal of the season against the Islanders. "Once we get going, we don't stop." The Hurricanes, who also visit Colorado on Friday, haven't gotten much going against the West. They went 0-1-2 against Western opponents during a recent three-game homestand, a small part of the West's overall early dominance in going 42-16-7 in interconference matchups. Carolina hasn't won four straight on the road since winning its last five games of the 2010-11 regular season. The Wild (4-3-3) haven't exactly done their part against the East, going 1-2-1 on a recent four-game road trip, but they got back to their defensive ways Tuesday. Minnesota outshot Nashville 13-3 in the first period and 29-16 overall in a 2-0 victory. "It's all about wins right now, and we haven't been winning, so tonight was a step in the right direction," said Josh Harding, who lowered his goals-against average to a league-best 0.96. Minnesota's struggling to score - its 6.9 shooting percentage is among the league's worst - but along with Harding's stellar play between the pipes, it seems to be setting itself up for success. The Wild are allowing 21.2 shots per game, the fewest in the league and exactly 10 less than the Hurricanes give up on average. With Minnesota looking for a boost offensively, coach Mike Yeo threw rookie winger Justin Fontaine onto the top line with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise against the Predators, and the second-period move paid immediate dividends. Fontaine scored the game's first goal late in the second on a rebound. Fontaine practiced with Koivu and Parise again Wednesday, an indication he'll be sticking on that first unit against the Hurricanes. He'll see a familiar face when he enters the offensive zone Thursday in Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk, a St. Paul native and Fontaine's former teammate at Minnesota-Duluth during the Bulldogs' 2010-11 national championship season. The Wild, meanwhile, will be without their top young defenseman Thursday - and likely for a little while longer. Jonas Brodin, the 10th overall pick in the 2011 entry draft, broke his cheekbone Tuesday and is out indefinitely. Mathew Dumba will take Brodin's spot on the second unit of a power play that's among the league's best at 25.0 percent. The Wild's penalty kill, however, is among the NHL's worst (74.4 percent). The Hurricanes have won four straight meetings with Minnesota.
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