The Carolina Hurricanes are looking to fine-tune for the playoffs in two games against the Nashville Predators.
The Predators are looking to land in the playoffs — and perhaps tune up for a first-round meeting with the Hurricanes.
The teams will play Saturday night and Monday night in Nashville to close the regular season.
“We have two more games,” Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek said. “We have to battle hard and get confidence on track for the playoffs.”
The Hurricanes (36-10-8, 80 points) own a 13-game points streak, tying a franchise record. But they weren’t pleased with their 2-1 overtime loss Thursday night to the Chicago Blackhawks in the home finale.
“We needed to get our butts kicked, to be quite honest with you,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Just so we can show this is not how it works. We can’t play like that, certainly next week. That’s for sure.”
Carolina, in first place in the Central, is aiming to seal the top seed in the division. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning can catch the Hurricanes.
The Predators (29-23-2, 60 points) hold a four-point edge on fifth-place Dallas for the division’s final playoff spot, although the Stars have three remaining games.
“We have to take it step by step here because we’re not in the playoffs,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “We’ve got to get in. That has to be our focus and our preparation.”
Nashville has won two of its past four games, but both victories required overtime.
“It’s hard to get into the playoffs,” Hynes said. “We have to do a job. … It’s really about ‘let’s get ready for Saturday.'”
Based on previous results this season, advancing to the postseason might not come easily for Nashville. The Hurricanes are 6-0-0 against the Predators, with five of those results determined in regulation.
“We just want to control what we can control,” Predators forward Tanner Jeannot said. “We have two games left here against a pretty good team. We’re going to be ready to go against them and bring everything we got. We’re a good team, too, and we know that and we’re going to be playing with confidence. We know what is on the line.”
Nashville forward Colton Sissons said the Hurricanes “have our number this year, but I have full faith we can do it.”
Carolina can clinch the top seed with another victory or various other combinations.
“The guys have done a great job all year to get us in this position,” Brind’Amour said. “You’ve got to learn from it. It has to be a learning experience, for sure.”
Brind’Amour said Mrazek was the best player on the ice for the Hurricanes on Thursday night. Despite the final result, Carolina collected nine of a possible 10 points in the five-game homestand.
The Hurricanes could be fueled by what they considered an unacceptable outing in their most recent game.
“Sometimes games like that happen,” Mrazek said.
Hurricanes center Martin Necas said the team didn’t give Mrazek enough help. A quick upgrade is in order, he said.
“There is no chance we can play like that in the playoffs,” Necas said. “We want to give it 100 percent.”