Wild roll into Hurricanes matchup with momentum

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As Nino Niederreiter looks to continue helping the Carolina Hurricanes‘ push toward ending their nine-year playoff drought, he can also potentially deliver a hit to his former team’s postseason plans.

On Saturday night in Raleigh, N.C., the Minnesota Wild face Niederreiter for the first time since they traded him to the Hurricanes in this matchup of playoff hopefuls.

A long-time contributor and fan-favorite for the Wild, Niederreiter was losing ice time in his sixth season with the club when it dealt him to Carolina on Jan. 17 for Victor Rask. Though the move was tough for the veteran Swiss forward at the time, he’s been reborn while becoming a key piece to the Hurricanes’ cause.

Owner of the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, Carolina is 18-7-2 since acquiring Niederreiter, who has 12 goals and 12 assists in 27 games there. Those 24 points are one more than he totaled in 46 with Minnesota this season.

Niederreiter registered a point in his third straight contest with a goal in the Hurricanes’ irritating 6-3 home loss to Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay on Thursday. Carolina led 3-2 after two periods, but for only the second time in 2018-19, lost in regulation when leading into the third.

“It’s not our style,” forward Jordan Staal, who had a goal with an assist, told the Hurricanes’ official website. “All in all, that third period was not what we wanted to see out of the group.

“We’ll have to learn from it, put it aside and move forward.”

Carolina has not lost consecutive games in regulation since Jan. 15 and 18, but welcomes a desperate Minnesota club to town. The Wild are 12-11-6 since dealing Niederreiter, while Rask has one goal with an assist in 16 games for them.

The Wild enter play Saturday owners of the West’s final wild-card position following a 2-1 victory at Washington on Friday. Luke Kunin‘s tiebreaker with 7:35 left in regulation led to a much-needed win for Minnesota, which entered that game amid a 1-4-1 stretch.

It also improved to 6-1-1 on the road over the last month.

“We’ve got to do it again (at Carolina),” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I think the belief is there that they can win on the road.”

Ryan Donato assisted on both goals, giving him 11 and 15 points in 15 games since coming over from Boston.

Devan Dubnyk, who made 21 saves at Washington, equaled a career high by stopping 52 shots during a 5-4 overtime home loss to Carolina on Oct. 13. Boudreau hinted he could again start Dubnyk, who has a 1.68 goals-against average in his last three outings.

Sebastian Aho‘s goal 2:57 into overtime gave Carolina that win at Minnesota. Aho, with a team- and career-high 79 points, had two goals with two assists in that contest.

Aho went knee-to-knee with Niederreiter on Thursday, and though the former left the game, he returned to the ice. However, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Aho would be further monitored.

Carolina’s Curtis McElhinney, who had 26 saves Thursday in falling to 1-2-1 with a 4.75 goals-against average in his last four starts, needed just 19 at Minnesota in October. Petr Mrazek, meanwhile, has an 0.98 goals-against average while winning three straight home starts.

–Field Level Media

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