On the Canes’ schedule cards, red squares denote home games and black squares the road games. Look at December and there's a lot of red the first three weeks, just as there was in November.
The Canes face the Nashville Predators on Tuesday in the second game of a five-game homestand at PNC Arena. At 7-13-3, Carolina needs to take advantage of being on home ice -- something the Preds did in winning their last four games, all at home.
"We've talked about it all year, we want to be a tough team to play against at home," forward Jeff Skinner said Monday. "I think we've gotten better over the last month of being tougher to play against and sort of finding that identity. I think we want to build on that. Having this little stretch to start the month is big for us and hopefully we can get it rolling here."
The Canes are 4-4-1 at PNC Arena after losing their last three at home -- to Winnipeg, San Jose and then Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins to start the homestand. Their last home win was Nov. 10 against Calgary.
"We can't look too far ahead but we need to get these points and we know it's huge," forward Nathan Gerbe said of the homestand. "We just need to focus on Nashville and try and get these points first."
The Canes put in a spirited, productive practice Monday at PNC Arena. Only defenseman Brett Bellemore (lower-body injury) was missing.
Canes coach Bill Peters caused a few chuckles at one point when he called for defenseman Michal Jordan to take the ice. "Come on, Michal Jordan," Peters shouted. “I'm the only coach who can say he coached both Nick Lidstrom and Michal Jordan."
Peters said it like “Michael Jordan,” as in Air Jordan, not the Czech pronunication. Jordan just smiled and kept skating.
Peters liked the way the Canes competed against the Pens in the home-and-home, back-to-back games. Carolina controlled the puck and the pace of play Friday in a 4-2 win at Consol Energy Center, and the Canes battled hard Saturday in a 3-2 loss.
Defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Christian Ehrhoff had the second and third goals for the Pens, scoring both times as the Canes were changing.
"I liked the back-to-back with (Pittsburgh), I liked a lot of the things we took out of that," Peters said. "I thought we took a step, for sure.
"We can play with anybody in this league. We've just got to find a way to play 60 minutes at at our level. We're not a team that can outscore our mistakes."
Cam Ward is expected to be the starting goalie for the Canes against the Preds (16-5-2), who beat Florida and the L.A. Kings in shootouts, topped Edmonton 1-0 in overtime and then edged Columbus 2-1 Saturday in their last game to cap the 4-0-0 homestand.
"They score, they're deep and they play with pace," Peters said. "You're going to have to earn your goals. They're big on the back end and have a world-class goaltender (Pekka Rinne) who's tough to beat."