Three things to watch Thursday as the Carolina Hurricanes host the Los Angeles Kings:
Canes coach Bill Peters says he expects a grind, and a grind it should be.
When a coach says one deciding factor in the game should be the bump-and-grind along the walls and who wins the majority of those puck fights, he’s not expecting an artistic game with a lot of pace. Peters wants the Canes (21-19-7) to use their transitional speed, but will the Kings allow it?
The Canes’ practice Wednesday was a physical one. As Peters put it, “It’s getting back to understanding how we play.” Also a test run for the Kings.
The Kings (23-21-4), who topped New Jersey 3-1 on Tuesday, are a good team with the lead. They’re 11-1-1 when leading after the first period and 14-1-1 when they have the lead after two, grinding it out.
Don’t expect a lot. The Kings allow 25.9 shots a game, the fewest in the NHL, and the Canes 27.8 shots (fifth).
The Canes gave up 25 shots to the Washington Capitals in their last game. Unfortunately for Carolina, the Caps scored on six Monday in a 6-1 win.
The Canes had 18 shots in beating the Kings 3-1 on Dec. 8 at the Staples Center, one of their six road victories. Derek Ryan had a shorthanded goal in the win, and Thursday’s game could be decided by special teams.
Peters at practice went with lines that have been productive: Victor Rask with Jeff Skinner and Ryan, Jordan Staal with Brock McGinn and Elias Lindholm; Teuvo Teravainen at center with Sebastian Aho and Lee Stempniak, and Jay McClement centering Joakim Nordstrom and Viktor Stalberg.
WHO WANTS IT
The Canes have lost four straight games. The Kings are at the end of a four-game Eastern road trip. Both teams are eyeing the All-Star break and some relaxation time but still have work to do.
The Canes were 14-1-1 in their past 16 games at PNC Arena before the 7-1 beating last week by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Peters said he wants the Canes to regain their team identity and a part of that has been being tough to beat at home.
Asked Wednesday if the break was coming at a good time for his team, Peters said, “Physically and mentally.” The Canes had the good push in practice Wednesday and planned a limited morning skate Thursday, so their energy level should be high.
Los Angeles Kings at Carolina Hurricanes
When: 7 p.m., Thursday
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh