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After ‘needed’ break, streaking Hurricanes face Blackhawks

Dec 23, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA;  Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho (20) takes a shot against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes are the hottest team in the NHL.

Yet they welcomed the weekend break. But now they’re getting set to return to action with their franchise-record 14-game points streak, taking on the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night in Raleigh, N.C.

“It’s a grind. It’s a long season,” said Carolina center Sebastian Aho, who recently returned from a lower-body injury. “These short breaks are definitely going to feel good. We’ve earned it.”

The Hurricanes have won eight games in a row for the longest active winning streak in the NHL. No. 8 came with Friday night’s 6-5 home victory against the Philadelphia Flyers before three days without a game.

“We needed a break,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We’ve pushed hard. Everybody needed a mental break here.”

A ninth consecutive victory would match the most recent nine-game winning streak for the Hurricanes; it came at the beginning of the 2021-22 season.

The Blackhawks have been in an opposite situation. They snapped an eight-game losing streak Friday by winning the finale of a three-game homestand, a 5-2 decision against Columbus.

“There’s no replacing finding that success,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “Now, going forward, we have to consciously make that decision every time we go on the ice that we’ll build off that. Remember that feeling … use that confidence and work our way out of it.”

The Blackhawks had goalie Alex Stalock back in action for the first time since Nov. 1 as he posted the victory in the Columbus game.

“I got to get into it and got back up to speed,” said Stalock, who had been out with a concussion.

That win could earn him another start, particularly with the break preventing any sort of quick turnaround. If not, the Blackhawks will have ex-Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek available in the nets.

Even though Aho didn’t register a point on any of the goals in Carolina’s victory against Philadelphia, the team was encouraged to have him back following a seven-game absence because of his injury.

“I don’t think he was on his best, but we need him,” Brind’Amour said. “You’ve got your best player, you’re going to put him in when he says he’s ready to play. I think it’s going to take him a few games to get back to feeling good again.”

Aho has 27 points in 27 games this season. He said he felt good to have a chance to contribute again while acknowledging that the Hurricanes have been cruising even during his layoff.

“It felt awesome. I was anxious to get back,” he said. “Just battling with the guys. They’ve been doing an awesome job without me. I have to thank the guys for hanging in there.”

Carolina allowed three third-period goals to the Flyers but seemed unfazed by the close encounter. The Hurricanes were fortunate to hold a four-goal edge before the Flyers perked up.

“Flush that third period and take the positives of whatever the last 14 games have been,” Carolina forward Jordan Martinook said. “Going into the break on a high.”

Chicago forward Max Domi will be back in Raleigh for his first game since he was a trade-deadline addition to the Hurricanes last season.

–Field Level Media