Red Wings visit 'Canes aiming for back-to-back wins

( - The Detroit Red Wings will take aim at a 2-0 start to the season on Friday, while the Carolina Hurricanes try to kick off their campaign with a win in Friday's clash at PNC Arena.

The Red Wings opened the season at home on Wednesday night and earned a 2-1 regulation win over the Buffalo Sabres. Mikael Samuelsson and Pavel Datsyuk tallied 36 seconds apart in the first period and Jimmy Howard turned away 19- of-20 shots to help the Red Wings earn two points in the season opener for both teams.

Howard is coming off the best season of his career, in which he posted a 2.13 goals against average and his five shutouts tied for the league lead.

"I thought we got off to a great start there," Howard said. "We took a lot of penalties, so we're going to have to clean that up, especially early on in the year here, where it seems like it's more tightly called."

With Wednesday's win, the Red Wings now have beaten Buffalo in 12 of the last 13 matchups at Joe Louis Arena since 1996.

Detroit, which had been a member of the Western Conference since 1993-94, got off to an ideal start as a part of the East following the league's realignment this offseason.

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have left the now defunct Southeast Division to join the Metropolitan Division. Carolina will begin divisional play in its new surroundings when it hosts Philadelphia on Sunday, but kicks off its intra- conference slate against the Red Wings tonight.

Since reaching the top of the NHL mountain with a Stanley Cup title in 2006, things haven't gone so well for the Hurricanes. The franchise has missed the playoffs in six of seven seasons since winning it all and last spring marked Carolina's fourth straight spring without a playoffs appearance.

Despite the recent downturn, it's not out of line to think the Hurricanes have a chance to break the cycle in 2013-14. After all, the club was in first place in the Southeast last season before No. 1 goaltender Cam Ward -- the Conn Smythe winner when Carolina won it all in '06 -- suffered a season-ending injury.

Without Ward between the pipes the Hurricanes imploded, losing 20 of their final 27 games and finishing 13 points out of a playoff spot.

A healthy Hurricanes team could challenge for a playoff spot this season, although they'll have to do it in what appears to be a tougher division than the Southeast.

Unfortunately, the injuries already seem to be starting for the Hurricanes, who learned earlier this month that top defenseman Joni Pitkanen will miss the entire season with a broken bone in his left heel -- not the best omen heading into 2013-14 if you are the Hurricanes. Forward Tuomo Ruutu is also on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, while sniping winger Alexander Semin is questionable for Friday's opener with an upper-body issue.

However, Ward is ready to go after posting a 9-6-1 record and a 2.84 goals against average for Carolina before suffering his injury last season. Despite the injury problems last year, the 29-year-old has earned a reputation as one of the most durable goaltenders in the NHL. In fact, before 2013 Ward had appeared in 60 games or more in five of the previous six seasons.

Detroit has won four of the last five encounters with the Hurricanes, but Carolina has claimed two of the past three meetings in Raleigh.