Stanley Cup Final Preview? Hurricanes and Avalanche go toe-to-toe on Saturday

stanley cup final preview
Mar 10, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Colorado Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) stops Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei (76) shot in the third period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Stanley Cup playoffs are just around the corner, and while many teams are fighting to get in, the Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche have already clinched spots.

As the two teams get set to faceoff on Saturday night, the Avs are a clear Stanley Cup favorite at +350 per Odds Shark. The Canes are fifth best at +1000.

While the Hurricanes are fighting off the New York Rangers for first in the Metropolitan Division, the Avalanche are neck and neck with the Florida Panthers for the Presidents Trophy. Colorado has a two point advantage coming into action today after Florida crushed the Winnipeg Jets on Friday 6-1.

Tonight’s game can be seen on ESPN+ for out of market viewers.

Hurricanes big test on tap

Carolina holds a two-point edge on the New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division, who have been inconsistent lately being shut out twice in the past month.

“We want to finish first,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We still want to accomplish that. We made that a little tougher (after losing to Detroit on Thursday night).”

Offense tends to be the Hurricanes’ main issue of late. The Hurricanes have racked up 40 or more shots in seven of their last 17 games, yet they’re just 3-3-1 in those seven games. On Thursday night, a 3-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, 17 of Carolina’s 18 skaters had at least one shot on goal.

hurricanes and avalanche
Mar 10, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Antti Raanta (32) is congratulated by center Jordan Staal (11) after their win against the Colorado Avalanche at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

“There’s no reason to panic or anything,” Hurricanes scoring leader Sebastian Aho said. “You learn from these and (we’ll) be a little bit sharper when we get those chances.

It might have been the power play that let down the Hurricanes the most, Aho said. They finished 0-for-3 with the man advantage.

“With those scoring chances, you’re supposed to score enough goals to win a hockey game,” Aho said.

Carolina had center Jesperi Kotkaniemi back in the lineup after missing eight games with a lower-body injury. Brind’Amour said Kotkaniemi lost a bit of conditioning during the layoff, so it took time to get up to speed.

“I think he’ll continue to get better as we move along,” Brind’Amour said.

Carolina beat the Avalanche 2-0 at home on March 10 behind Antti Raanta’s shutout. However, top goalie Frederik Andersen is likely in line for the start in the rematch.

Avalanche best team in the NHL

The Avalanche (54-14-6, 114 points) are coming off a 3-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night, extending their franchise-record win total. Colorado is the NHL’s hottest team with an eight-game winning streak and a 10-game points string.

“I like what we’re doing,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “We’re staying focused and playing the right way. It’s as much about our habits and how we play right now as it is stringing together wins.”

Bednar said the Avalanche’s second power-play unit could see more time in the next couple of weeks as the team looks to evaluate options. There’s also an emphasis on seeing various combinations on penalty-killing groups as well.

Artturi Lehkonen, who recently arrived from the Montreal Canadiens in a trade, scored his second goal with the Avalanche and his 15th of the season overall with a tally against the Devils.

“It’s fun to get the points, but as long as the team keeps winning that’s all that matters,” Lehkonen said.

–Field Level Media contributed to this report