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Sharks at Hurricanes Preview: Don’t underestimate the ’Canes

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Three wins is cool, four becomes a streak.

Feb 4, 2018; Raleigh, NC, USA; San Jose Sharks forward Kevin Lebanc (62) is checked by Carolina Hurricanes defensemen Brett Pesce (22) during the third period at PNC Arena. The San Jose Sharks defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1. James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Sharks latest roadie continues tonight with a stop in North Carolina to play the Hurricanes. It’s the team’s one and only stop in Raleigh for the 2018-19 season, because unless the fates align just right, the two teams probably aren’t going to meet in the Stanley Cup Final this season.

San Jose seems to be finding its footing after a slow start. The team has won three in a row and is coming off a pretty impressive come-from-behind win over the league leading Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

The Hurricanes have been something of a surprise this season. The team traded Jeff Skinner in the off-season and allowed goalie Cam Ward to walk at the start of free agency. Carolina seems better for it, with the Hurricanes enteringtonight’s game with a 5-3-1 record. Admittedly, the team has won the games it should have (Vancouver and Detroit) and lost the games it should have (Tampa Bay and Winnipeg), so I’m not sure how much of a story this tells.

The Sharks will need to be aware that the Hurricanes have some fire power. Sebastian Aho has a point in every game he’s played this season. 14 points in nine games is pretty impressive. Michael Ferland will also be one to look for, as he has a goal in each of his last four games.

Does Scott Darling start in net for the ‘Canes?

The Hurricanes decided well before the start of free agency to make a change in net. In April, they traded with the Chicago Blackhawks to acquire Scott Darling and then quickly turned around and signed the 29-year-old netminder to a four-year, $16.6 million dollar contract. After that, it was easy to let Ward walk.

Everything would have been fine, except then Darling was injured in the final game of the preseason. Ever since, the Hurricanes fans have been waiting to see what their new netminder can do when the games count. They could find out tonight.

Darling just wrapped up a one-game conditioning stint in the AHL and was called back to the team yesterday. All signs point to him starting soon, possibly tonight.

The last time the Sharks faced Darling was December 12, 2016. He allowed just one goal in the game and finished with a .971 save percentage. It was the only time he played the Sharks.

What’s going on with Jumbo and who will take his place tonight?

Joe Thornton is on this road trip with the Sharks, but Head Coach Pete DeBoer made it clear he won’t be back in action tonight. Jumbo is still dealing with complications from his knee surgery. This is the eighth game of the season Joe has missed.

So far, Rourke Chartier has filled Jumbo’s roster spot in his absence, but Chartier has yet to score his first NHL goal and the fourth line hasn’t found its way on to the scoreboard very much, even though the Sharks have won three straight.

Dylan Gambrell has been going back and forth between the Sharks and Barracuda, but has yet to see any NHL action this season. If DeBoer is looking to shake up the fourth line, the addition of Gambrell may be the way to do it. The 22-year-old has been good with the Barracuda, scoring three goals and two assists in three games.

Will Erik Karlsson find the back of the net soon? Please.

I know when you join a new team there’s going to be a feeling out process. I totally get that. But two Sharks’ defensemen have scored this season and neither one of them is named Erik Karlsson.

Let’s pause for a moment to remember the shortie Brenden Dillon scored against Nashville.

Okay. So, the two-time Norris Trophy winner Karlsson has yet to light the lamp. He looks like he’s starting to feel more comfortable back there and he’s taking shots, but nothing’s going in! I know it will work itself out, but you have to wonder when.

Bold Prediction: The Sharks’ power play is starting to click and that’s bad news for Carolina. I predict three power play goals including one from Erik Karlsson and a Sharks win. Please use the below comments to curse me and my dumb predictions. I think every time I predicted a Sharks’ win last season, I failed miserably.