Hurricanes-Flames Preview

Some teams were surely looking forward to the All-Star break and a few days off. The Carolina Hurricanes probably weren't among that group.

Carolina tries to continue its resurgence with a third straight win when it opens a three-game trip Wednesday night against the sinking Calgary Flames.

Two months ago, this seemed to be another lost season for the Hurricanes, who after a listless 5-1 home loss to New Jersey on Dec. 3 were tied with three other teams for last in the NHL's overall standings with 20 points.

That defeat appears to have signified a turning point for Carolina, which has since gone 15-7-4 for one of the league's best marks during that span. Only Chicago, Washington and Florida have been better entering the second half.

''That game, we didn't play hard, we gave up too much, and we weren't strong on the puck,'' forward Riley Nash said. ''So that was kind of a kick in the butt to say, `We better get in gear, or we're going to be on the outside looking in again.'''

Carolina (23-20-8) closed a three-game homestand in impressive fashion Jan. 26, rolling to a 5-0 rout of the reigning champion Blackhawks behind Nash's two goals and Eddie Lack's 26 saves.

''When we get contributions throughout the lineup, we're a good team,'' said coach Bill Peters, whose club outshot Chicago 40-26. ''We've been a good team here for a while now.''

Jeff Skinner has led the Hurricanes offensively during the turnaround, tallying team highs of 13 goals and 21 points in those 26 games. Jordan Staal has 18 points and Kris Versteeg has contributed eight goals and 17 points.

Peters now has two strong options in net to choose from. Lack has won three of his last four starts with a 1.48 goals-against average and two shutouts, while Cam Ward is 5-3-2 with a 1.78 GAA in his past 10.

Ward, who hasn't played since Jan. 15, was activated from injured reserve Jan. 26 after missing time with a concussion.

The Flames (21-24-3) could definitely be counted among those teams that were happy to see the break arrive. They entered the layoff with three straight losses and a 2-6-1 record following a 2-1 defeat to Nashville last Wednesday.

That loss marked yet another slow start for Calgary, which allowed the first goal 6:21 into the contest and was outshot 11-4 in the opening 20 minutes. The Flames dropped to 5-11-0 when trailing after one period compared to a 12-3-1 mark when leading at that point.

"Our starts have been terrible this year," leading scorer Johnny Gaudreau told the team's official website. "It's tough to come back in games when you're down a goal or two. That's something that we need to be better at in the next part of the season here."

Even playing at home hasn't been enough lately for the Flames, who have lost five of seven at Scotiabank Saddledome since a franchise-record 11-game win streak there.

The Flames learned Wednesday defenseman Dennis Wideman has been suspended 20 games for cross-checking linesman Don Henderson last week.

The 32-year-old will forfeit $564,516 in salary as a result of the suspension, which is the second-longest in NHL history for abusing an official.

This will be the second meeting between these teams in a little over a week after Versteeg scored twice in Carolina's 5-2 victory Jan. 24. The Hurricanes are 0-5-1 in their last six visits to Calgary since a 4-3 win Dec. 12, 2002.

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