The Canes' Victor Rask (49) shoots against the Florida Panthers' Derek MacKenzie (17) at the PNC Arena in Raleigh on Dec. 2, 2017. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com
The Canes' Victor Rask (49) shoots against the Florida Panthers' Derek MacKenzie (17) at the PNC Arena in Raleigh on Dec. 2, 2017. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com

Carolina Hurricanes

What the Hurricanes need to do to avoid missing the playoffs for a ninth straight year

By Chip Alexander

calexander@newsobserver.com

December 12, 2017 04:01 PM

What are the odds of the Carolina Hurricanes making the Stanley Cup playoffs?

It’s probably the proper time to ask that question. The Canes, with an 11-11-7 record and winless in all four games on their road trip, are in Las Vegas on Tuesday to face the Vegas Golden Knights for the first time.

According to Hockey-Reference.com, which computes playoff odds, the Hurricanes have a 29.2 percent chance of making the postseason. The Golden Knights (19-9-1), an expansion team in their first year of existence, are pegged at 89 percent, which may be galling to many Canes fans who have not seen their team in the playoffs since 2009.

The safe bet? For now, the Knights.

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Before Tuesday’s games, the Canes had 29 points and were six points out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey and the New York Rangers held the two wild-card playoff spots with 36 and 35 points respectively.

One NHL truism is that 95 points usually are needed to be in playoff position – the Toronto Maple Leafs claimed the second wild-card spot last season with 95. If that holds again, the Canes would need 66 points out of their final 53 games.

Something like a 31-18-4 record would get the Canes to 95 points. But is it doable for this team, this year?

The Canes, last in the Metropolitan Division, have yet to win more than two games in a row. Sporadic goaltending, scoring woes by multiple players and inconsistent play from special teams have been persistent problems and Carolina seemingly has found different ways to lose games.

During the road trip, the Canes blew a 4-1 lead and allowed two power-play goals and two shorthanded goals against the San Jose Sharks, then lost on a Brent Burns goal 20 seconds into overtime.

In a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, the Canes rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the third period to force overtime. They had the puck in the offensive zone nearly the entire first three minutes of OT, making three line changes while the Kings’ Anze Kopitar, Tyler Toffoli and Drew Doughty were stuck on the ice, yet couldn’t score.

“We played well in the overtime and I wouldn’t change much,” Canes coach Bill Peters said, albeit adding, “We were not happy with the result.”

The Canes and Anaheim Ducks played a tight-checking game Monday that ended with the Ducks winning 3-2. With the score tied 1-1 in the final minute of the second period, Canes defenseman Haydn Fleury fell to the ice trying to play a bouncing puck in the neutral zone, allowing a breakaway score by the Ducks’ Jakob Silfverberg.

“It was a tough one,” Peters said.

The Associated Press reports that since the NHL salary-cap system began in 2005-2006, 78.4 percent of the teams in playoff position on the fourth Thursday in November went on to reach the postseason. Thirty-eight teams have defied the “Thanksgiving rule” and were able to make the playoffs.

When the Canes last appeared in the Stanley Cup playoffs, in 2008-2009, they were 11-10-2 on Thanksgiving and 13-12-4 after 29 games. The Canes made a coaching change on Dec. 3, 2008, firing Peter Laviolette and bringing back former coach Paul Maurice, and had their best run in March with a 10-1-2 record.

Carolina finished 45-30-7 in the regular season, second to the Washington Capitals in the Southeast Division. The Canes then had playoff series victories over New Jersey and Boston, both in seven-game thrillers, before being swept in four games by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Canes last season had a 9-0-4 stretch in March. They may need something like it earlier this year if they’re to get into the playoff hunt.

“We just have to work,” defenseman Justin Faulk said after the loss to the Ducks. “Every game we’ve got to keep working.”

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip