The distant postseason dream is slowly fading in Carolina.
The hometown Hurricanes are playing competitively and enthusiastically, but they simply don't appear capable of the once-in-a-lifetime winning streak needed to reach that elusive eighth-place position.
So, in all likelihood, the 'Canes 2011-2012 campaign will go down as the third consecutive season without a playoff appearance. The team's horrible start will, as usual, force this year to be remembered solely as another doomed effort.
But the last five months of hockey have certainly not been for nothing.
While victories may have been scarce and the pain of overtime defeats everlasting, more than a few bright spots have emerged from this up-and-down season of Hurricanes hockey.
Talent-laden stars have found their way into the spotlight, a new coach has brought new-found motivation to the club and success has even been found in some unexpected areas.
And recently, all of those positive signs have blended to create a small yet clearly noticeable influx of passion to the Hurricanes' game.
What optimism can the 'Canes team and community take away as an otherwise-disappointing season winds down? We take a look at the four brightest spots of the '11-'12 journey on the coming slides.