Now comes the test for the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Canes have 20 games left in the season and Canes coach Bill Peters says he wants a high level of performance from his team down the stretch, saying, "We're not playing out the string."
At the same time, Peters will be taking a look at some inexperienced players as the Canes try to get a better handle on who figures into their plans for next season. On Friday night, defenseman Rasmus Rissanen will make his NHL debut -- after playing 240 games for the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) -- against the Minnesota Wild, and there could be others to follow.
Rissanen is excited about playing his first NHL game but how well will he play? How many games will he play? It's all a part of the Canes' experimental equation.
Rissanen will play the left side with John-Michael Liles as his defensive partner. The other pairs will have Justin Faulk with Ron Hainsey and Jack Hillen with Brett Bellemore.
"We've got to find out, right?" Peters said. "We're going to play him, we're not going to hide him, and away he goes.
"It's great accomplishment. He's playing in the best league in the world. He's a young guy, he's got a bright future, it's an exciting time. You just want to make sure he enjoys it and set him up to be successful."
-- The Canes activated defenseman Ryan Murphy off injured reserve Friday. Murphy has missed the past 11 games with a lower-body injury suffered Feb. 4 but has been participating in recent practices.
Murphy and Michal Jordan will be the healthy extras against the Wild.
-- Anton Khudobin, who shut out the Washington Capitals 3-0 last Friday in his last start, will be in net against the surging Wild. Minnesota has won its past four games and seven of eight, and is 17-3-2 in its last 22 games after standing 18-19-5 in mid-January.
"They're playing real well, dialed right in," Peters said. "They've been excellent. They're getting goaltending right now and all four lines play with speed. Their D move it.
"I like their team a lot. Penalty kill is real good, power play is dangerous. We'll have our hands full."
-- The Canes lead the NHL in penally killing at 88.2 percent and the Wild is second at 86.5. In a recent win at Colorado, the Wild killed off all seven penalties.
-- The Wild ripped the Canes 6-3 in the first game this season, on Minnesota's home ice. The Wild jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first period and never looked back, leaving Peters to say, “That’s as bad as we’ve played in a long time.”
-- Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk has been one of the league's biggest surprise stories this season and recently was named the NHL's first star for the month of February.
Acquired from Arizona on Jan. 14 for a third-round draft pick, the 6-foot-6 goalie has started all 22 games -- a franchise record for the Wild -- and has a 1.62 goals-against average, .938 save percentage and five shutouts.
-- The Canes' lines at the skate had Jordan Staal centering Eric Staal and Andrej Nestrasil, Riley Nash at center with Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask centering Nathan Gerbe and Alex Semin and Jay McClement at center with Chris Terry and Pat Dwyer. Brad Malone was the extra forward.