Flyers vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

An Opportunity for Eaves

Tuesday, 02.17.2009 / 11:40 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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An Opportunity for Eaves
Note: Tim Gleason skated today but is out tonight, as his injured hand prevented him from handling the puck effectively.  The team is hoping to have him back for Thursday’s game against the New York Islanders.

Now that Justin Williams faces at least a month on the sidelines with a broken hand and Scott Walker still doesn’t appear to be on the radar, Patrick Eaves will get the chance to show what he can do on a scoring line with Matt Cullen and Ray Whitney tonight.

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Having played on the third and fourth lines for most of this season, it’s been a while since Eaves has gotten an opportunity like this one. He’s gone up to a scoring line once or twice earlier in the season, but Coach Paul Maurice thought that caused him to get away from the things that earned him that opportunity in the first place.

“Where he’s fallen off a little bit is when he’s gone out with more offensive players he’s played more of an outside, perimeter, skilled game that doesn’t suit him and the way he needs to play,” said Maurice of Eaves. “He needs to take the fourth and third line mentality into the top two lines.”

Health is a big reason why Eaves has been an effective depth player for the Hurricanes. He’s had injury problems of his own, but hasn’t had to deal with the lengthy absences that Williams and Walker have. Instead, he was plagued by a nagging shoulder ailment that caused him to miss time on five separate occasions since joining the team in February of 2008.

Even when he was in the lineup, the injury still made him feel tentative about playing the physical, grinding game that made him a first-round pick in 2003 and a 20-goal scorer with Ottawa during his rookie season.

“It always helps out when you’re going in to play the body,” said Eaves of his recently good health. “You don’t want to be thinking in the back of your head about your shoulder. It’s 100 percent now and it feels great.”

Although Maurice’s unwillingness to break up Rod Brind’Amour’s line with Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose was a factor in Eaves’ promotion, the hope is that Eaves can bring more of a defensive presence to the scoring lines   The 24-year-old is quietly leads the team with a +7 plus/minus rating, which is five better than anyone else on the roster. He’s also one of only five regular players who are even or better, which isn’t bad for someone who only has seven points all season.

As an example of his strong defensive play, Maurice singled out Eaves for preventing a goal against Buffalo on Sunday night.

“He made a great backcheck, and if there was one thing that was missing in the games against Florida and Columbus, it was that our forwards didn’t work hard enough to get back to the puck,” said Maurice. “He had a full-out sprint from the far end of the ice and came back, and if he takes one less stride the puck is in the net. That was the difference for him and our team."

If it doesn’t work with Eaves, newcomer Jokinen and LaRose could both be candidates to see time on that line. Although neither is listed primarily as a right wing, all indications are that Jokinen could do it if needed, while LaRose has already been on that side in recent games.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 76 48 21 7 231 179 103
2 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
3 x - TBL 78 47 24 7 250 204 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 WSH 77 42 25 10 227 190 94
7 DET 76 40 23 13 221 208 93
8 BOS 77 39 25 13 204 198 91
9 OTT 76 38 26 12 220 204 88
10 FLA 77 35 27 15 192 210 85
11 CBJ 76 37 35 4 210 234 78
12 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
13 NJD 77 31 33 13 170 197 75
14 CAR 76 28 37 11 176 208 67
15 TOR 77 29 42 6 201 245 64
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 71 22 28 -12 50
J. Faulk 76 15 32 -19 47
E. Lindholm 75 16 21 -20 37
J. Skinner 71 18 13 -22 31
V. Rask 74 11 20 -13 31
N. Gerbe 72 9 17 -13 26
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. McClement 76 7 13 -5 20
J. Staal 40 4 16 -6 20
J. Liles 51 2 17 -8 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 20 22 5 .909 2.43
A. Khudobin 8 15 6 .904 2.60