The Carolina Hurricanes might not have pulled off a first round upset on the level of the Columbus Blue Jackets but they’ve very much been a surprise team during this playoff season. Their strong run has been particularly impressive as they’ve had to deal with a slew of injuries since the midpoint of their first round series against the Washington Capitals. They’re in good shape in this series heading home to the PNC Arena with a 2-0 lead but they’ll have to deal with even more significant injuries if they’re going to advance in the postseason.
The Islanders, for their part, are trying to avoid falling into a 3-0 hole. History suggests that they’ve got a good chance to prevail in Game 3. NHL teams down 0-2 in a best of 7 series playing Game 3 on the road are 46-48 overall (48.9%) and 14-13 in the Quarterfinals (51.9%). At the very least, they’ve got a fighting chance. Even though series comebacks aren’t unprecedented in the NHL no team wants to go down 3-0. Only four teams have managed to come back from that deficit in hockey with only 1 of these comebacks from teams playing Games 3 and 4 on the road.
Carolina’s injury situation went from bad to worse in Game 2 when goaltender Petr Mrazek left the game with what was described as a ‘lower body injury’. The good news is that the injury appears to be much less serious than first anticipated but he won’t be available for Game 3. He’s listed as ‘day to day’. Curtis McElhinney came on in relief of Mrazek in Game 2 and played very well stopping 17 shots with no goals against to preserve the victory. He’ll get the start here–it’s his first career playoff start and with it he establishes a new NHL record for the oldest goalie making his first career playoff start (he’s 35 years old). Also injured in Game 2 was defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk–he’s not expected to play here but according to some injury reports he might be ‘questionable’. Carolina is still without Jordan Martinook, Andrei Svechnikov and Michael Ferland–they were all injured in the opening series against Washington. Svechnikov has been in concussion protocol but he could play Game 3. The other two players are somewhere between ‘questionable’ and ‘day to day’.
If the Islanders are going to get back in the series they have to win here. Carolina has held their own against the Isles over the past few seasons (8-7 L3 years) and the Hurricanes have been playing excellent hockey since the All Star Break with 36 wins in 53 games. Then again, so have the Islanders (31 wins in 50 games). The Hurricanes have been outworking the Islanders throughout the series and for a ‘non hockey town’ the playoff crowds at Raleigh’s PNC Arena have been insane. We’ll look for the ‘canes to steal another game and go up 3-0. It should be a low scoring affair–4 of the last 5 overall and 5 of the last 6 at Carolina have seen five or fewer goals scored.