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Hurricanes face Blue Jackets looking to carry success into new year

Sportsnaut
Dec 7, 2019; Raleigh, NC, USA;  Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho (20) skates up the ice with the puck with left wing Teuvo Teravainen (86) against the Minnesota Wild at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Minnesota Wild 6-2. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 7, 2019; Raleigh, NC, USA; Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho (20) skates up the ice with the puck with left wing Teuvo Teravainen (86) against the Minnesota Wild at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Minnesota Wild 6-2. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes are about to start another calendar year. They can only hope the new one goes as well as 2021.

The Hurricanes had the best regular-season winning percentage in the NHL over the past year (.724), and they carry considerable momentum into Saturday afternoon’s game against the host Columbus Blue Jackets.

Columbus had five games postponed before returning to action Thursday night, winning 4-3 in a shootout against the Nashville Predators.

“You have your concerns in what you can do with four days of practice,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said.

The Hurricanes hadn’t played in nearly two weeks when they defeated the visiting Montreal Canadiens 4-0 on Thursday night behind goalie Antti Raanta’s 26-save shutout.

Raanta was filling in for Frederik Andersen, who came out of COVID protocol earlier in the day, and stood tall as the Hurricanes shook off some rust.

“Now it’s a little bit easier,” Raanta said. “You got that one game in your belt.”

The Hurricanes have won seven of their last eight games. That pushed their regular-season mark in 2021 to 58-19-9, leaving their .724 winning percentage the top mark in the NHL for any team with at least 40 games in a year since 2013.

Carolina welcomed seven skaters out of COVID protocol on Thursday night. The Hurricanes hope the worst of their health issues are behind them.

“You just never know at this point,” left wing Teuvo Teravainen said. “You’ve got to be careful.”

Teravainen has played in all 30 games for the Hurricanes and is second on the team with 25 points (nine goals). Team scoring leader Sebastian Aho (34 points, 15 goals) missed three straight games, but was back in action against Montreal and recorded two assists to record six consecutive multi-point games.

The combination of Aho and Teravainen were involved in a power-play goal and a short-handed goal.

“They have that chemistry,” Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “You don’t have to tell them to try to look to score. That’s in their nature.”

The Blue Jackets are attempting to rediscover some rhythm and were satisfied with Thursday’s shootout victory.

“By the third (period), I thought we finally found a little pace to our game,” Larsen said of the first game after the extended holiday break. “Hopefully find enough time to kick the rust off, find your legs.”

Columbus won just three times in December, with the lone triumph in regulation coming Dec. 5 against San Jose by a 6-4 score.

“It wasn’t a great month,” Larsen said.

This game against Carolina is the second outing in a scheduled three-game homestand for the Blue Jackets. Larsen said the team will feed off the energy in the stands.

“That’s the fun part about being here in this building is what these fans can do for this group,” Larsen said.

The Hurricanes haven’t been on the road since Dec. 14, when hours before a scheduled game at Minnesota, the matchup was postponed because of Carolina’s COVID issues. It means their last completed road game was Dec. 12.

This will be the Hurricanes’ second visit to Columbus this season, after winning 5-1 on Oct. 23, with Vincent Trocheck scoring two goals and Andersen stopping 27 shots.

–Field Level Media