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Improved Power Play Behind Victory

Monday, 11.16.2009 / 2:10 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Improved Power Play Behind Victory
The Hurricanes' 14-game winless streak finally ended on Sunday. Not coincidentally, the team’s power play had easily its best performance of the season.

Paul Branecky
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Carolina scored three goals with the man-advantage against the Minnesota Wild, which is a season high and as many as they scored in the previous eight games combined. They now have 13 power play tallies this season, four of which have come in the last two games.

“We’re getting people to the front of the net and we’re getting shots to the net instead of spending our time working on the set up,” said Coach Paul Maurice.

Technical improvements aside, the power play shone in recent games thanks to a number of excellent individual performances. Bryan Rodney, Tuomo Ruutu, Brandon Sutter and Ray Whitney were on the ice for all four of the recent goals, with Joe Corvo present for all three against the Wild.

For Maurice, what those players were able to accomplish on the power play is a sign that the team’s overall offensive struggles have begun to subside.

“More than any other place on the ice, I think (the power play) is where you see the confidence, and a lot of it has to do with the speed that you move the puck,” he said. “When you’re moving the puck quickly you’re going to get your opportunities, but at the end of the day guys stand in front of the net.”

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Although he wasn’t necessarily what caused Tuomo Ruutu to screen the goaltender, Joe Corvo to get his shots through or Brandon Sutter and Ray Whitney to provide cool finishes, there has been one common theme in power play resurgences over the last two seasons: Rodney.

Since his NHL debut in December of 2008, the Hurricanes have converted at an excellent 28.2 percent rate in games that Rodney sees significant time on the man advantage. Of the 11 power play goals scored with Rodney in the lineup, the 25-year-old has been on the ice for eight of them, earning four assists.

Rodney is modest about his contributions in that area – he memorably referred to himself as “Joe Corvo’s sidekick” last season – but he does bring an element to the team’s blue line, both on the power play and even strength, which the team could sometimes use more of.

“He’s an offensive, skilled guy that can skate and move the puck,” said Maurice of Rodney. “Right now on our back end we’ve got some big guys back there, but puck movement is something that we don’t do easily at times. That’s fine if you have the lead and you’re just banging people around, but when you need some offense, he can do some things.”

When using the “in games that Rodney sees significant time on the man advantage,” qualifier in determining his stats above, I only needed to throw out one contest, his second ever in the NHL at the New York Rangers, in which he saw just 33 seconds on six Carolina power plays. If you were wondering, the Canes went 0-6.

The significance therein is that, despite his status as an ECHL regular just a few short seasons ago, Rodney has been given a chance on the power play in nearly every major league game that he’s played.

“It helps when you get a little bit of responsibility like that, because special teams are so big in this league,” said Rodney. It’s going well right now, and I’m just trying not to over-think too much out there and just let things fall as they may.”

Whether Rodney becomes an NHL regular or not will depend largely on his defensive consistency. While he’s not the only member of the team with problems in the plus/minus category, he was a -2 against he Wild and was at fault for the overtime winner at the hands of the New York Islanders on Friday night.

Still, give him credit for bouncing back from the potentially traumatic overtime error, which came shortly after he nearly ended the winless streak himself with a great chance at his first NHL goal just moments earlier.

“It’s been a bit of a transition for me, but it’s getting better every game,” he said.

It doesn’t look as though Rodney will leave the lineup for Tuesday’s game in Montreal, as the Canes are currently facing a potentially big problem with getting enough players into the lineup. Maurice said that Joni Pitkanen and Scott Walker would likely not play against the Canadiens, while Aaron Ward is questionable.

If Ward can play, Tim Conboy could slot into Walker’s spot at forward with no problems. If not, the Canes would probably be looking at a call to Albany, which is getting extremely tricky due to salary cap concerns caused by previous call-ups and player signings.

Regardless of that situation, Maurice said that Michael Leighton will get his second consecutive start in goal. He also said that the team was hoping to have Eric Staal, out of the lineup for the last six games, back in the fold sometime next week.




1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
7 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
8 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
9 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47


J. Faulk 54 15 19 -13 34
J. Skinner 54 19 12 -3 31
V. Rask 52 12 19 0 31
J. Staal 54 12 19 8 31
K. Versteeg 53 10 21 1 31
E. Staal 54 9 21 0 30
E. Lindholm 54 8 16 -9 24
A. Nestrasil 47 7 12 0 19
J. Nordstrom 43 5 9 2 14
R. Hainsey 54 3 11 -11 14
C. Ward 15 11 6 .908 2.38
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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