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Lines so Crazy, They Might Work

Sunday, 12.27.2009 / 1:01 PM ET / 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 WSH 49 36 9 4 161 110 76
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 NYR 51 28 18 5 146 132 61
4 TBL 50 28 18 4 131 115 60
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 NYI 49 26 17 6 134 121 58
7 DET 51 25 18 8 125 130 58
8 NJD 52 26 20 6 117 118 58
9 PIT 49 25 17 7 126 122 57
10 PHI 49 23 18 8 117 128 54
11 CAR 52 23 21 8 124 138 54
12 MTL 52 24 24 4 137 141 52
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 53 20 28 5 133 167 45

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 52 14 19 -15 33
K. Versteeg 51 10 21 2 31
V. Rask 50 12 18 0 30
E. Staal 52 9 21 1 30
J. Skinner 52 18 11 -4 29
J. Staal 52 11 16 4 27
E. Lindholm 52 8 16 -7 24
A. Nestrasil 45 5 12 -4 17
R. Hainsey 52 3 11 -14 14
J. Liles 52 5 7 -4 12
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 14 11 5 .905 2.41
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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