The Carolina Hurricanes have looked like one of the best teams in the NHL at times this season, excusing their past few contests.
The Nashville Predators suddenly look like a playoff-caliber team as well.
The teams match up for the fifth time this season Thursday night in Raleigh, N.C.
"It's a great time of year. There's a lot to play for," Predators coach John Hynes said. "We're in a fight for the fourth playoff spot (in the Central Division)."
The Predators are 5-1-0 across their last six games. That includes a 7-2 whipping of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. That was the second game in a four-game stretch that Nashville has racked up seven goals.
The Hurricanes -- at least for now -- are one of three teams battling for the top spot in the division despite back-to-back setbacks to the Detroit Red Wings.
Carolina will be aiming to bounce back not just from defeats, but from some ragged stretches on the ice.
"This is the one game where I was like, 'That was gross,' to a man," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said of Monday night's 3-1 loss, saying that in two and a half years in his position, "That's the first game I feel that way about a game. We just didn't bring it. That's a rough one for us."
Other than goalie James Reimer, who was solid in his first outing in more than a week, Brind'Amour said there weren't the types of performances that were good enough, and Carolina players seemed to realize that.
"The way we came out and played (Monday night's) game was no good," forward Nino Niederreiter said.
Nashville and Carolina were active at the trade deadline earlier in this week, addressing topics at the blue line.
The Predators dealt for veteran defenseman Erik Gudbranson in a trade with the Ottawa Senators.
"We thought if we could add a defenseman to help us with depth," Hynes said, hoping to see the team's penalty killing improve. "We felt like with his track record with that, that it's a spot he can really help us."
Even before adding Gudbranson, there was a boost in that area.
"We've added a little bit more pressure," Hynes said. "There's just much more detail to it from the players and a commitment level and confidence to it, and that makes a big difference."
The Hurricanes acquired defenseman Jani Hakanpaa from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defenseman Haydn Fleury.
"A little something that we don't have. A little bit more sandpaper to our game," Brind'Amour said of bringing Hakanpaa on board. "I think we got a little better on the backside. That's what we needed."
The Hurricanes will look for upgrades in play on special teams after some shortcomings in recent games in those areas.
Nashville's Tanner Jeannot scored his first NHL goal Tuesday, and he has received praise when added to the lineup.
"He has really bought into how he needs to play," Hynes said.
Jeannot said the Predators seem to be in a good groove.
"It was pretty obvious, everybody was buying into the systems and working together," Jeannot said.
--Field Level Media