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On Oct. 21, the Carolina Hurricanes were looking to bounce back from their 7-4 defeat versus the Seattle Kraken. The team flew into Colorado the day before to practice before facing the Avalanche on Saturday. It would be their fifth game in seven days that saw them go to California and Washington before touching down in the Mile High City. Before the game, the team had an unfortunate setback with defenseman Brett Pesce being out of the lineup due to a lower-body injury. The Hurricanes were already down players with Sebastian Aho being out due to an upper-body injury since the Anaheim Ducks game on Oct. 15. Also, they have been without goaltender Frederik Andersen since getting hurt in the San Jose Sharks game on Oct. 17.

Injuries in the latter half of the road trip have put the Hurricanes in a tough spot having to emergency call Cal Burke from his stint with the Colorado Eagles, funny enough the Avalanche’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. Furthermore, all of this was after Andrei Svechnikov was not able to come on the trip due to coming back from his knee surgery back in March. All of that along with the previously mentioned five games in seven days created a storm that no one saw coming at Ball Arena in Denver. They ended up losing the game 6-4 to the Avalanche. What went wrong for the Hurricanes?

Hurricanes’ Special Teams Woes

So far in the six games that have been played, it seems that special teams are the Achilles heel for the Hurricanes. Against the Avalanche, Carolina’s penalty kill units allowed three power-play goals in five attempts. For the season, the team is currently ranked 29th in the NHL with a penalty kill percentage of 67.9. The only teams worse are the Nashville Predators (66.7), Florida Panthers (65.2), and the St. Louis Blues (63.6).

Despite being bottom five in the league on the penalty kill, the Hurricanes are 10th in the NHL on the power play at 26.7 percent. This is beneficial for the team that made the power play a priority in the offseason. Carolina on the season so far has scored eight power-play goals while giving up nine themselves. However, despite scoring so many power-play goals, they’ve given up three shorthanded goals in six games. One of those recently came against the Avalanche on a Logan O’Connor goal. The Hurricanes have scored four shorthanded markers themselves, two of them coming from defenseman Jaccob Slavin.

Related: Hurricanes’ Slavin: Believer on Ice

Slavin himself has had a great start to the season. He already has three goals and seven points on the year. During the 2022-23 season, he had seven goals in 76 games played. His career-high in goals is eight which he’s done twice already (2017-18 and 2018-19). Could this be the season he hits 10 goals?

Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Overall, it seems that the special teams have been a thorn in the side for the Hurricanes despite scoring 4.5 goals a game so far this season. On the flip side, they have given up five goals a game as well. Defensively, the team looks lost and the injuries to key players like Pesce, Aho, Andersen, and Svechnikov have not helped them. Hopefully, the early season struggles turn themselves around and the Hurricanes can return to the team that people know. Outside of those struggles, there have been two players who’ve stood out to start the season.

Hurricanes’ Kotkaniemi & Jarvis Shining Early

Coming into the season, two players that the Hurricanes were hoping to take strides in the 2023-24 season were Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Seth Jarvis. As of Oct. 22, both of them are leading Carolina in points after six games played. Jarvis has four goals and seven points while Kotkaniemi has three goals and seven points as well.

Related: Hurricanes’ Jarvis Aims for Breakout 2023-24 Season

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For Jarvis, his three power-play goals are already a career-high and it is only six games into the season. He has grown into a young leader already and has been a force for the Hurricanes to start the season. There was hope that he would have a breakout season and so far, he seems to be on that trajectory. He is currently in his third season in the NHL and looks poised to set a career-high in goals, assists, and points. His best season for goals is 17 (2021-22), assists 25 (2022-23), and points 40 (2021-22). This is huge for him as he is in the last year of his entry-level contract (ELC). He will be a restricted free agent (RFA) after the season.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Carolina Hurricanes (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Kotkaniemi has broken out in a big way early on this season having already tallied seven points in the first six games. He has established himself as the Hurricanes’ second-line center that they hoped he would become. Since December 2022, he has tallied 43 points in his last 57 games. That is an incredible run for a player who is in the second year of his current eight-year, $38.56 million deal. He had a career year last season finishing with highs in goals (18), assists (25), and points (43) while playing in all 82 games.

Related: Hurricanes’ Kotkaniemi Can Be Jordan Staal 2.0

If these two can keep up the pace that they are currently on, there is no stopping the youth movement in Carolina. What could help them maintain this run is Aho, Svechnikov, Andersen, and Pesce returning to the lineup. Once those four are back, that could help turn the tides for the Hurricanes who are currently not at their usual category-five strength that the NHL has seen over the last five seasons. As of right now, they are at a category three but there is potential to get stronger with everyone back and not having so many games in a certain period of time.

Up Next for Carolina

The next game for the Hurricanes is at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, Oct. 24. There is hope that much-needed rest will help guys heal up before their next game along with hopefully getting those who are injured back healthy. It is still uncertain when Svechnikov specifically will be back, but the hope is soon. For Aho, Andersen, and Pesce, hopefully, there will be news soon on their returns as well. While it looks bleak right now, at least they are facing adversity now instead of what they had to deal with at the end of last season.

The Hurricanes and their fans just need to weather the storm and see what happens on the other side of these early-season struggles.

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The post Hurricanes’ Special Teams Could Not Survive Avalanche appeared first on WorldNewsEra.


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