The Carolina Hurricanes have rolled up their best record ever across the first 40 games of a season.
Yet dealing with the Detroit Red Wings has been troublesome.
After falling to the last-place Red Wings in a shootout Saturday night, the Hurricanes take another shot against Detroit when the teams meet Monday night in Raleigh, N.C.
"They work hard," Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton said of the Red Wings. "Sometimes we struggle with teams like that."
It took seven rounds in the shootout before Detroit prevailed with the 5-4 result, marking the Red Wings' second victory in a row when facing the Hurricanes.
Still, that gave Carolina a team point. So with a 27-9-4 record, the Hurricanes have their best mark at this stage of any season and remain in first place in the Central Division, while Detroit remains last at 14-23-6.
Avoiding pitfalls against teams that might otherwise be struggling is something the Hurricanes want to address. The Red Wings are 3-3-0 in their six meetings so far.
"We just weren't sharp," Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said of the latest outing. "We weren't good, really. They work hard. They make you earn everything. They earned their two points."
Slowing down Adam Erne is one of the objectives for the Hurricanes.
Before he scored the decisive tally in the seventh round of the shootout Saturday night, he provided a third-period goal. That gave him a goal in four of the past six games in the best stretch of his career. Add in his assists, and he's got a six-game scoring streak.
"I'm comfortable with it right now," Erne said. "One game, one day at a time. Just trying to stick with that."
The topic of goaltending remains at the forefront for the Hurricanes, who have three goalies with strong credentials this season.
Petr Mrazek played in three of the past four games since returning from an absence of more than two months because of thumb surgery.
For the rematch with Detroit, it would figure that the Hurricanes would turn to either Alex Nedeljkovic or James Reimer, who hasn't played in more than a week.
Still, the Red Wings found out what might work with Mrazek in the nets.
"You have to make it hard on him," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. "You have to create traffic."
Detroit's four goals through regulation were significant. Those were the most goals given up by the Hurricanes since the Red Wings won a 4-2 decision on March 16 in Detroit.
Red Wings goalie Thomas Greiss, who made 30 saves Saturday, has only four victories this season. Three of those have come in road games, and two have come in his last three games against high-flying Carolina and Tampa Bay.
The Hurricanes, who have posted four or more goals in five of their last nine games, had numerous scoring chances early, but then the Red Wings gained some traction.
"It wasn't really our best game," Hurricanes center Martin Necas said. "There wasn't really momentum that we usually (get)."
Carolina does have some more lineup flexibility. Defenseman Jake Gardiner had missed 15 straight games until playing Saturday. His return meant that Haydn Fleury was a scratch.
The Hurricanes are 3-1-1 so far on a scheduled eight-game homestand. Getting past the Red Wings is the priority for now.
"They've been close games against them," Hamilton said. "Every game has kind of been a grind. We expect that."
--Field Level Media