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Lightning vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Lines so Crazy, They Might Work

Sunday, 12.27.2009 / 1:01 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Lines so Crazy, They Might Work
Paul Maurice has been very creative this season when it comes to arranging his forward unit. If the Canes three-goal third-period rally against Philadelphia on Saturday was any indication, he may be on to something.

Paul Branecky
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In that game, the team’s comeback effort was led by the trio of Matt Cullen at center with Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal on the wings. While natural positions are getting harder and harder to define, those three players have predominantly been used at centers up until now.

However, while that grouping may seem odd, the results spoke for themselves.

“I liked where our top six [forwards] were at after those changes,” said Maurice. “How it gets into the game and if we move somebody around, we’ll do that on a weekly basis, but I wouldn’t mind seeing this run for a while.”

Staal started the game on the left wing with Jokinen at center and Patrick Dwyer on the right, but moved over to the right wing himself about halfway through the Philadelphia contest. Despite playing all three forward positions in the span of just two games, Staal seemed to find a comfort level on the right side.

“It’s obviously different than center, but once you get going you start to feel more comfortable,” he said. “I thought with Jussi and Cullen we started to create some offense and went on the attack with some speed and score some goals, and hopefully that will continue.”

According to both Maurice and Staal, the right wing position is the easiest forward position to play because it requires less defensive responsibility and neutral-zone work than at center or on the left. They believe putting Staal in that situation will help free him up to do more on the offensive end.

“It really allows you to go skate and be aggressive on the forecheck,” said Maurice. “It allows him to use his speed, and I thought when he went there he looked like the fella that we’ve seen before,”

“On the right there’s less thinking and more skating, and that’s my game with being on the move and using my legs to create open ice,” said Staal. “The right side suits my game better and I felt a lot better there in the third period.”

While Staal’s immediate future for his club and potentially his country during the Olympics lies on the wing, he was quick to point out that he hopes the move is temporary, and that he can return to center for the long haul.

“I don’t think this is a permanent thing,” said. “I much prefer center, but under the circumstances right now this is where I’m going to play. I felt pretty good out there, and the main thing for us is winning games.”

Having three centers on one line created an opening on the third line, which Patrick Dwyer is currently filling. Dwyer said he played his first few years as a professional at center and has a comfort level there, even though he has predominantly played on the wing.

That move and others (view full lines here), leave only three or four forwards on the Hurricanes roster that have played in one position all season. That’s likely to continue in the future, with Maurice indicated he might use Tuomo Ruutu at Center once Erik Cole returns to the lineup, which will hopefully occur in early January.

”There’s a lot of different options with those guys, and we’re trying to think outside of the box a little bit here and not continue hammer the same things when a guy’s just not scoring,” said Maurice.


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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 48 30 14 4 156 127 64
2 NYI 46 31 14 1 151 129 63
3 DET 47 27 11 9 139 119 63
4 MTL 45 29 13 3 123 106 61
5 PIT 46 26 12 8 138 117 60
6 NYR 44 27 13 4 134 106 58
7 WSH 46 24 13 9 137 120 57
8 BOS 48 25 16 7 126 121 57
9 FLA 44 20 14 10 107 122 50
10 OTT 46 19 18 9 126 128 47
11 TOR 48 22 23 3 142 150 47
12 PHI 48 19 22 7 130 146 45
13 CBJ 45 20 22 3 113 142 43
14 NJD 47 17 22 8 107 134 42
15 CAR 46 16 25 5 98 120 37
16 BUF 47 14 30 3 89 167 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 41 15 13 -8 28
J. Faulk 46 8 18 -14 26
J. Skinner 41 10 9 -7 19
E. Lindholm 46 9 10 -10 19
R. Nash 46 7 12 -4 19
J. Tlusty 39 11 7 -12 18
N. Gerbe 42 4 13 -2 17
V. Rask 46 6 9 -9 15
A. Sekera 44 1 14 -8 15
C. Terry 33 6 3 -3 9
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 5 8 2 .916 2.32
C. Ward 11 17 3 .911 2.45