Canes’ goal: win games, hope for the best

Posted by Chip Alexander on March 29, 2014 

Some might call them overly optimistic, but the Canes believe there's still a chance.

Not much of a chance. They aren't completely fooling themselves. But a chance.

The Columbus Blue Jackets (37-30-6) are in wild-card playoff position with 80 points. The Canes (32-32-9) have 73 and with a victory tonight over the Jackets could pull within five points.

"It's going to be a big game," Canes coach Kirk Muller said Saturday after the morning skate at PNC Arena. "We look at it that if we win, we're five out. We feel we can still press. We have a lot of hunger in us. They're in another position. It's going to be a good game tonight.

"We still believe we're in this battle. I know you can look at the numbers and all that, but if we win tonight … Our focus is on everyone coming and playing to their capabilities."

Anton Khudobin, coming off his first shutout for the Canes, will again be in net. Khudobin had 35 saves Thursday in the 3-0 road win over the Florida Panthers. He also had a career-high 46 saves against Columbus in a 3-1 road win March 18.

The Canes' road record (15-17-4) isn't a lot different from its record at home (17-15-5). In their last game at PNC Arena, Tuesday against the New York Islanders, the Canes fell behind 4-0 in the first period before losing 5-4.

Muller said Saturday it isn't so much about having bad performances at home as poor first periods in home games. It's also hard for the Canes or Muller to fully explain.

"We're a much more relaxed team on the road and play much better on the road," Muller said. "We've tried a lot of things (at home) but just seem to come out a little nervous the first period and spot teams goals and then you kind of go from there. We've come out too hesitant."

Why nervous and hesitant?

"We've got some young guys and sometimes they get a little more nervous to play," Muller said. "You try to create stuff that's not there. … On the road you play a good, smart game and let the game evolve and create opportunities. We seem to come out and force things in the first, or we sit back and let teams come to us. That's what we have to learn -- we have to initiate, just like we did the first period in Florida the other night.

"We have to have that ingrained. We need more hunger to set the tone and not wait to see what kind of game it's going to develop into."

The Canes' lines at the skate had Jordan Staal centering Nathan Gerbe and Alex Semin; Andrei Loktionov centering Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty; Riley Nash at center with Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm; and Manny Malhotra at center with Radek Dvorak and Pat Dwyer. Drayson Bowman was the extra forward.

The defensive pairs were Andrej Sekera-Justin Faulk, Ron Hainsey-John-Michael Liles and Jay Harrison-Brett Bellemore. Mike Komisarek was the extra D-man.

One website, sportsclubstats.com, has apparently done all the higher math and pegs the Canes' chances of making the playoffs at 1.1 percent (Columbus is at 66.2 percent). So still a chance, yes?

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