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Blues vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Positives Easy to Find

Wednesday, 02.10.2010 / 1:58 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Positives Easy to Find
At one point this season, it would have been difficult to come up with one single thing that had gone right for the Hurricanes. That task has proven to be much easier these days.

Paul Branecky
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Prior to January, the team had not experienced a three-game winning streak all season. Monday night’s victory ensured that they would have their third such run since the calendar turned to 2010. Since January 21, they’ve won eight of their last 11 games, which is by far their best stretch of hockey this year.

As to what’s changed or why things seem to be working better now than they did in the past, coach Paul Maurice couldn’t put his finger on one particular area.

“I don’t think it’s fair to do that, because a lot of parts of our game have come together,” he said. “I do think Eric [Staal] getting healthy has been a huge part of that. We’ve added a forward – [Chad LaRose] came earlier and that made a big difference, and now [Tuomo] Ruutu comes in and that makes a big difference for us. We’ve had good goaltending.”

Maurice also mentioned much-improved special teams play. Over the last 11 contests, the Canes have converted at a 22 percent rate on the power play, which would contend for the league lead if maintained for the season.

Even more impressively, the team has allowed just three power play goals over that stretch, posting a stellar 93 percent clip on the penalty kill. To put that number in perspective, the Buffalo Sabres, who come to the RBC Center this Thursday evening, paced the NHL with an 86.9 percent shorthanded success rate as of Wednesday afternoon.

Rather than any tactical changes made, Maurice pointed to the relative continuity in the lineup as a reason for the resurgent special teams. There are still significant injuries, but there has not been as much turnover on a day-to-day basis as there was in the first half.

“At the end, the difference in most of these games is if you can shut the other team out on the power play and you can get one, you’re in a great spot,” he said. “A big part of this is having the same five guys come off the bench.”

For those keeping score, one could now claim health, dominant performances by star players, goaltending and special teams as positives surrounding the team right now, which again, are four more things then one could have come up with in October and November.

More than anything else, it could just be that players are having fun again, which is evident both on the ice and behind the scenes.

”When you get a good feeling, you really enjoy it and the confidence is back,” said Maurice after Wednesday’s practice at the RecZone. “On a day like today, if you came off three losses it would be tougher sledding out there. Today we’ve won three, so the puck is lighter and you feel a little bit better about yourself.”

This isn’t to suggest that the Hurricanes are rolling around in four-leaf clovers. There are still significant concerns about goaltender Cam Ward’s back, while Erik Cole has been out for much longer than originally projected.

Cole continued to practice with the team in a non-contact jersey Wednesday, as did Scott Walker. Ward is still a few weeks away from a definitive prognosis.

In Ward’s absence, Maurice said that Manny Legace would start Thursday’s game following a strong performance against Florida two days earlier. Justin Peters would then make his second career NHL start on Saturday against the New Jersey Devils, which is the team’s final game before the two-week Olympic break.

Since Ward’s injury, Legace and Peters have combined to post a 3-0-0 record, .942 save percentage and 1.67 goals-against average.


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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 48 27 13 8 143 124 62
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 48 18 22 8 109 135 44
15 CAR 47 17 25 5 102 122 39
16 BUF 49 14 32 3 92 174 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 42 16 14 -6 30
J. Faulk 47 9 19 -13 28
E. Lindholm 47 9 11 -11 20
J. Tlusty 40 12 7 -11 19
J. Skinner 42 10 9 -7 19
R. Nash 47 7 12 -4 19
N. Gerbe 43 5 13 -3 18
V. Rask 47 6 9 -10 15
A. Sekera 45 1 14 -6 15
C. Terry 34 6 3 -3 9
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 6 8 2 .918 2.30
C. Ward 11 17 3 .911 2.45