Category 5: Hurricanes face home back-to-back against Stars, Penguins

Carolina gets a surplus of home games after a road-heavy schedule to start the season

Hurricanes defenseman Jalen Chatfield checks Penguins forward Kasperi Kapanen in a game between the teams Nov. 29 in Pittsburgh. (Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — The Hurricanes will have their first set of back-to-back home games this season when the Stars and Penguins visit PNC Arena on consecutive nights this weekend.

1. Saturday’s game against Dallas is Carolina’s second straight at home after playing the previous six on the road. The Hurricanes’ upcoming home-heavy schedule — starting with Thursday’s 3-2 win over Seattle, they play seven of eight in Raleigh — is a welcome change of pace after the team spent 19 of the season’s first 28 games on the road.


Both the Stars and Penguins are 9-5-2 on the road this season, while Carolina is 6-3-1 at home. Only Arizona has played fewer home games than the Hurricanes’ 10 — the Coyotes are 3-2-1 at Arizona State’s Mullett Arena.

Dallas won both games against the Hurricanes last year. The Stars picked up a 4-1 win at home and also won 4-3 in the shootout in Raleigh despite being outshot 47-15 by Carolina. The Penguins went 1-1-1 vs. the Hurricanes, losing the only game between the teams at PNC Arena 3-2 on an overtime power play goal by Andrei Svechnikov. Carolina won the only meeting between the teams so far this season.

2. The Stars have rebounded under first-year coach Peter DeBoer, who was part of a quasi-coach “trade” that saw him go from Vegas to Dallas, Bruce Cassidy move from Boston to Vegas and Jim Montgomery, most recently of the Stars, land with the Bruins.

After a first-round exit against Calgary, Dallas is neck and neck with Winnipeg — and the Stars’ old coach, Rick Bowness — atop the Central Division at 18-8-5 and behind the Golden Knights in the Western Conference.

While goalie Jake Oettinger is certainly a big reason for the Stars’ resurgence — he was otherworldly against the Flames in that seven-game playoff series and has been one of the league’s top goalies this season — Dallas has a Hart Trophy candidate in 23-year-old Jason Robertson.

The 2017 second-round pick has 23 goals through 31 games — behind only Edmonton’s Connor McDavid (27) and Buffalo’s Tage Thompson (23) — with 17 at even-strength, which is tied with Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen for the most in the league.

“He knows how to score,” said Carolina defenseman Jalen Chatfield, who skates in Michigan during the offseason with Robertson and his brother, Toronto forward Nick. “Any chance he gets, he buries. He capitalizes.”

Chatfield was quick to point out that Robertson isn’t just a goal scorer, though.

“If you really watch him, he plays a 200-foot game, which might be overlooked with how good his offense is,” Chatfield added. “But his forechecking is good, he works hard, back checks, he studies the game — I think it’s all-round. He’s crazy.”

Chances are Robertson will get a steady diet of Jordan’s Staal’s line on Saturday.

3. Speaking of Chatfield, he’s still looking for both his first career NHL goal and his first point of the season.

Only two players have played more minutes this season without a point, and both are Philadelphia defensemen: Justin Braun has logged 485:23 without a point, and Rasmus Ristolainen is at 445:22. Chatfield is up to 376:59.

Sixty-three games into his NHL career, Chatfield is also looking for goal No. 1. Last season with AHL Chicago, he had six goals and 18 points in 44 regular season games, plus two goals and eight points in 18 postseason games in helping the Wolves win the Calder Cup.

“That’s the game, man,” he said Thursday. “Like last year, I got a lot of good bounces, some goals I probably shouldn’t get. And then this year I’m getting pretty good chances that didn’t go in.

“But it’s fun, it’s all good. As long as you get the opportunity and we’re winning, like, whatever.”

4. Sunday’s 5 p.m. game will be the second of four scheduled meetings between the Penguins and Hurricanes this season.

Carolina picked up a 3-2 overtime win on Nov. 29 in Pittsburgh, prevailing when Brett Pesce finished off a 2-on-0 rush with Svechnikov after Seth Jarvis’ hit on Bryan Rust drew the ire of a pair of Penguins.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan called the Jarvis hit “dangerous” after the game. He wasn’t so measured on the bench immediately after the play.

The NHL isn’t really a league of retribution anymore, but it will be interesting to see if there will be a target on Jarvis’ back in the two games next week between the teams (Carolina’s one road game in the next seven is in Pittsburgh on Thursday).

I’ve mentioned this before, but Jarvis takes a lot of hits — he’s tied for eighth in the league among forwards with 59 hits taken; Dallas’ Radek Faksa is first at 71 — but that never seems to deter him from getting to the dirty areas.

So even if the Penguins decide to make Jarvis a focus, it’s doubtful it will change how he plays.

5. Coach Rod Brind’Amour said Friday that Sebastian Aho (lower-body injury) wouldn’t play this weekend, but some of the walking wounded were on the ice for practice.

Frederik Andersen participated, but Brind’Amour said “he’s not ready” and wouldn’t dress for either game this weekend.

Ondrej Kase was skating with the rest of the team, wearing a yellow no-contact jersey, for the first time since playing in the season-opening win over Columbus. He has been sidelined since with the aftereffects of a concussion.

“It’s good for him,” Brind’Amour said. “We’ll talk to him and see where he’s at. That’s one of those injuries that’s just kind of on the player to see (how) he feels.”

The coach’s outlook was the same on Max Pacioretty, who was also in yellow but is progressing after suffering an Achilles injury in August.

“Again, that’s a conversation with him,” Brind’Amour said. “But he’s not close to playing. So I’ll let you know. When that yellow jersey comes off, you can start asking questions about him. … I have no new updates until (Pacioretty and Kase) flip that jersey.”