Carolina Hurricanes face off with Chicago Blackhawks in key Central clash

Mar 25, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (19) shoots on goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes are 10-1-2 in March as they prepare to visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday hoping to cap off a successful month.

While defenseman Dougie Hamilton has maintained a steady hand in the surge with a 14-game point streak entering Tuesday, the Hurricanes also have benefited from their front line.

In Carolina’s latest victory Saturday, a 4-3 win against the Central Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning, it was Martin Necas’ turn to supply the heroics. Necas matched a career high with four points, scoring twice and assisting on the club’s two other goals.

Necas has seven goals and 10 assists in the 13 games in March.

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“He’s a great player. He’s got all the skill in the world,” teammate Sebastian Aho said. “The way he skates is pretty impressive. He’s a fun player to play with. I feel like we kind of think the game the same way.”

While Carolina has climbed to within one point of the Lightning in the division race, a recent slide has left Chicago grasping to maintain its hold on the No. 4 spot in the Central. After losing back-to-back games to the Nashville Predators to fall to 2-2 thus far on a six-game homestand, the Blackhawks now are tied with Nashville for the division’s final playoff spot with 36 points.

On Sunday, Chicago fell behind 2-0 after one period before Alex DeBrincat roused into action with his 17th and 18th goals of the season, striking over a 1:50 span early in the third.

Still, DeBrincat shrugged off his fourth multigoal game of the season as the team couldn’t complete the comeback. A little more than four minutes after the tying goal, the Predators capitalized on a defensive zone turnover by the Blackhawks and regained the lead.

“Those are games that we’re going to have to win down the stretch to make it to the playoffs,” DeBrincat said. “We did a good job of coming back, but we’ve got to stick with it. We’ve got to be able to hold that tie ’til the end or battle and get another one. We had a lot of momentum there, and it’s one small breakdown that they score on.”

The Blackhawks are 2-6-0 in their past eight games.

“All teams go through ebbs and flows through the year,” Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Everyone does it. This is ours, and we’ve got to nip it in the bud. The positive is that through how we played earlier, we’re still in a good position in the standings.”

Carolina can attest to seizing the opportunity for a turnaround. The Hurricanes lost three of four to close February but clicked since.

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On Saturday, they overcame a 2-0 deficit after one period, outshooting the Lightning 28-11 in the second and third. After Tampa Bay tied the game at 3-all on a Mathieu Joseph goal 22 seconds into the third period, Necas netted the game-winner on the power play with 3:53 to play.

“Shift after shift, we played our own game,” Aho said. “We competed hard. It was a good game by us, even though the start wasn’t ideal.”

–Field Level Media