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Positives Easy to Find

Wednesday, 02.10.2010 / 1:58 PM ET / 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.

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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 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