Alex Semin skated through four different Ottawa Senators to set up Eric Staal's game-winning goal Friday night. As challenging as that was, it was nothing compared to the obstacle course his team now faces.

The Carolina Hurricanes now have to skate through six straight road games, and it's no exaggeration to say their season is hanging in the balance.

The Hurricanes departed the Triangle quickly Friday after a very nice 1-0 win over the Senators, not to return for almost two weeks. When they do, they'll have a pretty good idea which way their season is headed.

Six games, 11 days, all on the road, starting Saturday night at the Philadelphia Flyers: The six most important games of the Hurricanes' season.

Dan Ellis has already been through this once this season. He was in Charlotte (AHL) when the Checkers opened the season on a nine-game road trip and went 6-2-1. That could have sunk their season, but that successful trip helped springboard them to the best record in the league.

"It was a great start, and when you can do something like that and come out on top, that's the key," Ellis said after making his case to start again Saturday with a 33-save shutout of the Senators. "Those are the moments of the season, the moments in the schedule, when you really have a chance to climb that ladder and get up there."

Friday's win sent the Hurricanes onto the road on a good note, but how they fare on this road trip, encompassing one-quarter of the road games they'll play this season, will likely determine how the rest of the season will go. By the time they get back, they'll be 12 games into the season, the schedule 25 percent complete. In today's NHL, with the bogus point for an overtime or shootout loss, that's when the standings calcify and significant movement becomes almost impossible.