PREVIEW: Hurricanes aim for sixth straight against Blackhawks

By Field Level Media
Feb 2, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Carolina Hurricanes right wing Andrei Svechnikov (37) scores a goal against Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen (32) during a shoot-out at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes will go for their sixth win in a row when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

Carolina is coming off a 4-3 win in the shootout round against the Blackhawks two nights earlier. It marked the second straight shootout victory for the Hurricanes, who have only one loss on the season.

Andrei Svechnikov, Warren Foegele and Vincent Trocheck each scored during the first 60 minutes for Carolina. Svechnikov added the goal during the shootout round that lifted Carolina to its fifth straight win.

The 20-year-old Svechnikov has five goals in seven games this season. He already has 49 career goals in 157 games.

“He’s a game-changer for us every night, and (Tuesday) was no different,” Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal said.

The Blackhawks will try again to slow down Svechnikov and the rest of his teammates. Chicago is playing much better after a rocky start to the season, and it has earned at least one point in six of its past seven games (3-1-3).

The emergence of rookie goaltender Kevin Lankinen has played a large role in the Blackhawks’ improvement. He turned aside 38 of 41 shots in the first game against Carolina.

In seven games this season, the 25-year-old Lankinen is 3-1-3 with a 2.09 goals-against average and a glowing .935 save percentage.

“Every single game, every single period I’m out there I just feel more relaxed,” Lankinen said. “I gain more and more confidence. I don’t really like to judge my game by the numbers too much because sometimes, what happens, the numbers don’t tell the whole truth. There’s so much that goes (into) a hockey game. Even with goalies.”

As for Carolina, James Reimer earned the victory Tuesday against the Blackhawks by stopping 30 of 33 shots in regulation and overtime, as well as stopping all three attempts by the Blackhawks in the shootout round. Reimer improved to a perfect 4-0-0 this season with a 2.19 GAA and a .915 save percentage.

Reimer has split time with Petr Mrazek, who is off to an even better start at 2-1-0 with an NHL-best 0.99 GAA and .955 save percentage. But Mrazek is expected to miss multiple weeks after undergoing surgery on his right thumb Wednesday.

Mrazek was injured Saturday against the Dallas Stars and had not played since. The Hurricanes are expected to rely on Reimer as the primary starter during Mrazek’s absence, with Alex Nedeljkovic serving a backup role.

Svechnikov and Trocheck lead Carolina with seven points apiece this season, while Sebastian Aho and Staal are next on the scoring list with six points apiece. Former Blackhawks forward Teuvo Teravainen has two assists in four games.

Chicago is led by Patrick Kane, who has 11 points in his first 11 games. Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kubalik have eight points apiece, and Dylan Strome ranks fourth on the team with seven points.

The teams faced off twice last season, with Carolina winning both matchups. The Hurricanes earned a 4-0 victory on home ice Oct. 26, 2019, and posted a 4-2 victory in Chicago nearly a month later on Nov. 19.

–Field Level Media