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Special Teams Improvements Fuel Canes

Thursday, 03.19.2009 / 12:18 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Special Teams Improvements Fuel Canes
Paul Maurice audio

As the Hurricanes have realized this season, it’s very difficult to be a successful team without successful special teams.

Paul Branecky
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It’s no coincidence then that they've earned points in 18 of their last 26 games dating back to January 19 at Toronto at the same time that they've had better showings on both the power play and penalty kill.

Coach Paul Maurice says that he always likes the percentages of both units to add up to at least 100. While the combined rates for the season as a whole fall just short at 96.8 percent, they add up to 102.8 percent since that meeting with the Maple Leafs - a game that holds significance because the Canes used it to end a season-high five-game losing streak and thus begin the process of climbing back in to the playoff picture.

Since that contest, the percentages for the power play (20.7 percent) and penalty kill (82.8 percent) would rank 10th and 13th in the league, respectively, if they had been maintained for the entire season. Given the struggles that each of those aspects of Carolina’s game went through at varying points this season, those numbers represent significant improvement.

“It’s been much better in the last two months overall,” said Maurice. “Our power play has won us games and our penalty kill has won us games. I think we’re settling into roles on it now that guys are comfortable with.”

The figure for the penalty kill would actually be higher if not for a recent lapse that has seen the Hurricanes allow five power play goals in the last two games – the most of any two-game stretch this season. Although those games were against formidable opponents with top-10 power plays, it’s up to the Canes now to make sure that’s just a blip in the radar rather than a reversing of an undoubtedly upward trend.

“A lot of your penalty kill is just positioning and some breaks, and the theme of what we’re trying to do is still there,” said Maurice. “It’s just a little sharpness maybe. We certainly haven’t changed what we’re trying to do with it.”

When a group is struggling on special teams, they will often dedicate entire practices to righting the ship. That being said, it’s notable that the recent run of success has come at a time when the Canes haven’t been practicing much at all given the late stage of the season and the tightly-grouped games that have characterized much of their recent schedule.

“I think there’s an energy factor to it, and confidence can’t be understated,” Maurice said. “We’ve done quite a bit of video on it, but our schedule just hasn’t allowed us to have practice time on it.”

With back-to-back games starting at home Friday against the New York Islanders, the trend of light practices continued today with a limited session that saw only a handful of lower-minute players take the ice.

With the win yesterday, Maurice said he expected no lineup changes for tomorrow’s game.

SCHEDULE

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AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
N. Hanifin 79 4 18 -14 22
J. Slavin 63 2 18 1 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81