Welcome to the NHL On Tap. Three NHL.com writers will share what they are most looking forward to on the schedule each day. Today, their choices from two games Sunday.
Hurricanes rockin’ again
The Carolina Hurricanes (31-9-8) haven’t missed much of a beat this season, even when they’ve lost key players to injury. It was tough to see forward Max Pacioretty sustain a torn Achilles on Jan. 19, especially after he missed the first 38 games of the season recovering from Achilles surgery. The Hurricanes have kept on going, winning four in a row, including the game Pacioretty had to leave. They’ll go for a fifth straight win against the League’s best, the Boston Bruins (38-6-5), at PNC Arena on Sunday (5 p.m. ET; SN, BSSO, NESN, ESPN+, SN NOW). The Hurricanes, who are also on a seven-game point streak (6-0-1), are first in the Metropolitan Division, two points ahead of the New Jersey Devils. Forward Martin Necas leads them with 44 points (21 goals, 23 assists) in 48 games, and is first with three overtime goals, two of which he’s scored in Carolina’s past two wins (3-2 against the Dallas Stars on Wednesday and 5-4 against the San Jose Sharks on Friday). I mean, this is best against best in the Eastern Conference, so you don’t need to sell the game much past that. But for the Hurricanes, it’s a chance to get a little breathing room between them and the Devils before the All-Star break. — Tracey Myers, staff writer
Video: [email protected]: Aho, Necas score to even and win it in OT
Bruins’ biggest challenges still ahead
Could what’s been an historic season for the Bruins end up as too much of a good thing? On one hand the door is open for load management, strategically resting older players to prepare for what they hope is a two-month grind to glory. Yet the dawning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will pose the three biggest threats for a team on pace for an NHL-record 64 wins: an opponent playing its best at the right time, complacency and history. The most recent example is the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning, a 62-game winner that clinched a playoff berth in their 68th game, one more than the 2009-10 Washington Capitals for the fewest since 2005-06, and were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round. The challenge for the Bruins will be not peaking too soon, which plagued the Lightning and the 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings, a 58-win team that lost the Western Conference Quarterfinals in six games to the Edmonton Oilers. Here’s what will keep the Bruins honest against the Hurricanes on Sunday: They’ve lost five in a row at PNC Arena since Dec. 23, 2018. That includes all four road games in the 2022 first round, when they were outscored 16-8. — Jon Lane, staff writer
Maple Leafs, Capitals each missing key players
The Capitals (26-19-6) and Toronto Maple Leafs (30-12-8) will each be without key players when they face off at Scotiabank Arena (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN4, NBCSWA, SN NOW). Tom Wilson did not practice with the Capitals on Saturday and coach Peter Laviolette said the forward would not be available until after NHL Honda All-Star Weekend on Feb. 3-4. The 28-year-old has played eight games this season after returning from knee surgery earlier this month and has not skated since sustaining an upper-body injury against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews will be out at least three weeks with a knee sprain, and now Toronto must deal with an ankle issue that is hindering goalie Matt Murray. Depending on tests Murray had Saturday, the Maple Leafs may have to call up a goalie from Toronto of the American Hockey League to back up Ilya Samsonov, who will make his sixth consecutive start, this one against his former team. The Maple Leafs do have some positive news: defenseman TJ Brodie is expected to return after missing 10 games with a rib injury and captain John Tavares will play his 1,000th game in the NHL. — Mike Zeisberger, staff writer
Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes (5 p.m. ET; SN, BSSO, NESN, ESPN+, SN NOW)
This is the second of three games between the Bruins and Hurricanes this season; David Pastrnak scored the overtime winner for the Bruins in a 3-2 home victory Nov. 25. With their 4-3 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday, the Bruins lost consecutive games (0-1-1) for the first time this season. Carolina forward Sebastian Aho has 10 goals and 17 points in 14 games against Boston.
Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs (5 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN4, NBCSWA, SN NOW)
This is the last of three games this season; each team has one win on home ice. The Capitals, who defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in a shootout Thursday to end a two-game losing streak, have not lost three straight regulation games this season. This is the fourth of a five-game homestand for the Maple Leafs, who are 19-4-4 at Scotiabank Arena.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.