The Carolina Hurricanes' hopeful push for a postseason berth during the 2013-14 season's second half will likely be aided by their schedule.
With 46 games played and 36 games remaining on the slate, the 'Canes lie five points out of the third seed in the Metropolitan Division and four points shy of the eighth overall place in the Eastern Conference.
A strong finish is undoubtedly needed if Carolina is to end its postseason drought.
Thankfully, the slate of opponents over the course of those 36 regular season-concluding matches is a relatively easy one.
A full remaining schedule can be seen below, with the opponent's record (overtime losses are included as losses) color-coded in the center columns:
Only 12 of the final 36 contests are set to match Carolina against a team currently boasting a winning record. Moreover, of those 12, half of them have the 'Canes playing a team they have already recorded a win against previously this season: They play Philadelphia twice, Montreal twice, Anaheim and San Jose.
Will the Hurricanes make the NHL Playoffs in 2013-14?
Conversely, 21 games pit the Hurricanes against a fellow losing opponent, with three more against the even New York Rangers (24-24).
Adding each game-by-game opponent record together equates to an 816-876 record, or 48.2 winning percentage.
Some of the most friendly dynamics of the remaining schedule:
- All three 2013-14 meetings with the Buffalo Sabres, whose 13-33 record ranks dead last in the NHL.
- All three 2013-14 meetings with the Florida Panthers, whose 18-28 ranks tied for second-worst in the East (two of three meetings are at PNC Arena).
- Both 2013-14 meetings with the Winnipeg Jets, whose 20-28 record is tied for third-worst in the West.
- Both 2013-14 meetings with the Dallas Stars, who have lost six of their last seven games to drop to 21-25.
- Three meetings with the Columbus Blue Jackets and two meetings with the New Jersey Devils, both of whom the 'Canes must beat out for Metropolitan position.
In fact, 10 of Carolina's final 12 games face off against teams currently .500 or worse. That timely "easy" stretch will help to counterbalance the fact that 14 of the team's 25 March and April games are on the road.
However, the 'Canes will need to truly play well on the ice to take much advantage of their favorable agenda.
With five combined matches with the Blue Jackets and Rangers down the stretch, the 'Canes must quickly and effectively end their seven- and nine-game losing streaks against those two division rivals, respectively.
The Hurricanes will also be challenged by two games in Philadelphia, where they've swallowed the "L" in eight of their last nine visits.
A five-game road swing around the turn from February to March will also pose arguably the toughest scheduling stretch of the entire 2013-14 campaign. After games in Buffalo and Dallas, a three-games-in-four-days swing through Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose—three clubs with a combined 93-34-16 record to date—will test the 'Canes' maximum abilities.
Will the 'Canes be able to overcome a few inevitable hiccups and take advantage of their fairly favorable schedule as the playoffs draw near?
Only the next three months can provide the answer.