What now for the Carolina Hurricanes?
The All-Star break is over and 36 games remain in the regular season. The Canes are 20 points out of playoff position, so that's out. What's the goal now?
"We want to continue to get better," Canes coach Bill Peters said after Monday's practice at PNC Arena. "There are a couple of areas we just have to maintain. Obviously we're happy with our penalty killing but we have to get our power play going a little better and improve in that area.
"We need to continue to score. We've scored a little bit more lately but when you look at it we're the second-lowest scoring team in the National Hockey League. We want to make sure we have that under control and get our D gapped up and active.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"There's a lot of things we can continue to do to lay a foundation moving forward. We want to continue to play well and make it hard on teams."
The Canes face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday at PNC Arena. Carolina lost twice to the Lightning in Tampa last month, both by 2-1 scores. It wasn’t much better last season -- the Canes lost twice to Tampa Bay on home ice and were beaten in overtime on the road.
-- Even though the Canes were 6-2-1 in January before the break, no one was complaining about having six days off.
"With our schedule, it's so busy and you have to take advantage of the days off," goalie Cam Ward said Monday. "At the same time you're excited to get back and get things going for the remainder of the season."
Ward and his family headed to Mexico and other players found warmer climes. Canes coach Bill Peters said he took his family to Fort Lauderdale for a few days.
"A last-minute decision to go and we're glad we did," he said. "It's your last chance to recharge and get dialed in for the home stretch."
The Canes won road games at Ottawa and Toronto before the break -- the first consecutive road victories this season.
"We left for the break on a really good note," Ward said. "The team has been playing extremely well and we want to keep a good thing going."
-- Defensemen Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy missed practice Monday. Faulk was returning from the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus, and Murphy was to play Monday night in the AHL All-Star Classic in Utica, N.Y.
-- The Canes put in some power-play work before the full practice began, then went another 45 minutes on the ice.
The lines had Jordan Staal centering Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty; Victor Rask at center with Nathan Gerbe and Elias Lindholm, Riley Nash with Jeff Skinner and Chris Terry and Jay McClement at center with Brad Malone and Pat Dwyer. Alex Semin rotated in with Malone and Dwyer.
With Faulk and Murphy missing, forward Andrej Nestrasil subbed in as a defenseman.
-- Peters did not name a starting goalie for the Tampa Bay game. Anton Khudobin was the winner against the Sens and Maple Leafs.