One of the top-scoring teams in the early season will meet one of the most porous defenses when the Carolina Hurricanes begin a four-game road trip Tuesday with a matchup against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Hurricanes opened the season with five consecutive victories, but they will enter off a 3-2 defeat at home Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. With 23 goals scored through six games, including four games of at least four goals, the offense has lifted Carolina atop the Metropolitan Division.
Left winger Erik Haula already has five goals on the season, including one against the Blue Jackets. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton has four goals, with all of them coming in his current — and career-best — four-game goal-scoring streak.
But a second game in consecutive nights Saturday appeared to neutralize the Hurricanes’ speed by the time the third period arrived.
Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour was in no mood to simply shrug off the defeat, either.
“They did exactly how we thought they were going to come play us to a T,” Brind’Amour said of the Blue Jackets’ plan of attack. “We weren’t ready and didn’t mentally prepare properly as a group for that kind of game. We got what we deserved, in my opinion.”
The Hurricanes added forward Brian Gibbons to the roster Sunday after he was recalled from Charlotte in the AHL. He had a goal and three assists in four games with the Checkers.
A well-rested Hurricanes team against the Kings’ leaky defense could be a recipe for fireworks. But after a dismal 2018-19 season in which Los Angeles was the worst team in the Western Conference and produced an NHL-worst minus-61 goal differential, the Kings’ play in the early season has given some reason for optimism.
The Kings have opened 2-3-0 and sport one of the league’s better offenses of their own (20 goals in the five games). But they have given up 26 goals, tied for the second-highest total in the NHL. In their three defeats, all with veteran Jonathan Quick in goal, the Kings have allowed a combined 19 goals.
Los Angeles was handed an 8-2 defeat by the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday and then dealt a 5-2 defeat against the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday. On Saturday, though, the Kings came alive on offense in their home opener, rolling to a 7-4 victory over the Nashville Predators.
“It’s a different mentality,” Kings left winger Dustin Brown said of his team relative to past seasons, according to NHL.com. “There’s a lot more direction in our team than the last couple years. A lot of that is (head coach) Todd (McLellan) coming in and setting the standard that we want to play at. We have a new system I haven’t played, and that makes it exciting for me.”
McLellan, who was hired by the Kings in April after he was fired by the Edmonton Oilers 20 games into last season, has a decision to make with Quick (19 goals allowed on 92 shots on goal, .793 save percentage). Backup goalie Jack Campbell has allowed seven goals in his two starts, both victories.
Following the Sunday defeat, McLellan declined to name a No. 1 goalie moving forward. The Kings have three games remaining on their first homestand.
–Field Level Media