The Canes have had consistent success against some teams this year -- the Philadelphia Flyers quickly come to mind.
Then there are teams that have given them problems. The Columbus Blue Jackets, to name one.
The Blue Jackets, who face the Canes on Monday at PNC Arena in an important Metropolitan Division game, are 2-0 against Carolina this season. Two late goals lifted the Jackets to a 4-3 victory on Dec. 23 at PNC Arena, leaving the Canes in a foul mood during the Christmas break. Columbus then shut out the Canes 3-0 behind Sergei Bobrovsky on Jan. 10.
"They play hard," Canes defenseman Justin Faulk said Monday. "They're pretty blue-collar and they keep it pretty simple and they work. You look at their lineup, they all finish checks and work hard and do everything they're asked. I think when you have that, and they have everybody on-board obviously, it really helps the team and it's a tough style to play against."
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Faulk said the loss just before Christmas, when the Canes led 3-2 with six minutes left in regulation, could have been the toughest of the season.
"Obviously you don't like to see a team coming back like that on you and winning at the end," Faulk said. "That's something that doesn't sit well, but at the same time, when you look back, I think we've been pretty good since that Christmas break. When something like that happens it's a real gut check and makes you realize you've got to have that killer instinct in a game, especially late."
The Canes are 9-4-1 since the break. They have a three-game winning streak and have won nine of the past 12.
The Blue Jackets went into Saturday's home game against the Buffalo Sabres with an eight-game winning streak, only to lose 5-2. The Blue Jackets had a 38-22 shooting edge but the Sabres found a way to beat Bobrovsky.
Bobrovsky, who has been named to the Russian Olympic team for the Sochi Games, had 36 saves in blanking the Canes this month.
"When he's playing like he did the last time, in Columbus, it's tough to beat him," Faulk said. "When a goalie plays like that it's huge for team confidence, and on our end I think we have that with our goalie. We know the feeling of playing in front of a good goalie."
Anton Khudobin will again be in net for the Canes, who play in Montreal on Tuesday. Canes coach Kirk Muller said he would decide on the starting goalie against the Canadiens after Monday's game, although it's possible Justin Peters could get the nod.
Goaltender Cam Ward, out the past 11 games with a lower-body injury, was at the skate, taking shots beforehand and getting in extra work after it. It’s hard to say when Ward might get in a game, however.
“He need to gets some practice time in and it’s a bad time to catch up,” Muller said. “But it looks health-wise that he’s getting there. We just need to get him to where he’s 100 percent.”
Muller said the Jackets "caught us sleeping for a couple of minutes" late in the first game. The second game, he noted, was the back-end of a back-to-back and involved travel.
As for the importance of the third game, the Blue Jackets (26-21-4) have 56 points and are third in the Metro. The Canes (23-19-9) have 55 points. It's that tight.
The Canes' lines at the morning skate were unchanged from their 6-3 win over Ottawa on Saturday. Eric Staal centered Jiri Tlusty and Alex Semin; Jordan Staal centered Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm; Manny Malhotra was at center with Nathan Gerbe and Drayson Bowman and Riley Nash centered Tuomo Ruutu and Radek Dvorak. Pat Dwyer, who has missed two games with an upper-body injury, was at the skate but should be a scratch against Columbus.
Defensively, the pairs were Faulk-Andrej Sekera, Ron Hainsey-John-Michael Liles and Jay Harrison-Mike Konisarek. Brett Bellemore again should be a scratch.
Sekera on Monday was named the NHL's third star of the week. Sekera had a goal and five assists, and a plus-8 rating, last week in victories against the Flyers, Sabres and Senators. The team said Sekera was the first Canes defenseman to be recognized by the league as a star of the week since the franchise’s relocation in 1997.