Tracking the Storm

Wingers to Rotate With Staal

Tuesday, 12.7.2010 / 11:44 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Wingers to Rotate With Staal
The Hurricanes’ answer to the question of who plays with Eric Staal is to not have one permanent answer.

Paul Branecky
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It seems that just about everyone in the Hurricanes’ top nine has had a turn as a first-line winger alongside the Canes’ captain over the last few years, regardless of position. Of the current group, only Patrick Dwyer and Brandon Sutter stand out as those who haven’t.

Coach Paul Maurice said Tuesday that there’s a reason for that, as few can handle prolonged periods of matching up against the opposition’s top defenders.

“You’ve got a big, strong man like Eric Staal that’s going to see different kinds of defense – either two big guys or somebody that can really move the puck,” said Maurice. “I don’t know if we’ve got another guy that can run 82 games with him. He battles differently and can handle more than most other guys can.”

With that in mind, the Hurricanes’ current plan is to rotate a group of players on the first line depending on specific match-ups.

“Some nights he gets a little more size and you’ll see (Tuomo) Ruutu or (Erik) Cole there, and some nights he can get and hang on to it and he just needs some quickness and some hands and you’ll see (Jussi) Jokinen or (Chad) LaRose or (Sergei) Samsonov,” said Maurice. “We want to make our other lines get some chemistry going, but we’re going to have to adjust our lines depending on who we’re playing and our schedule.”

Tuesday’s practice saw Samsonov and Ruutu on either side of Staal, which should in theory bring a good mix of both. With Dallas on the docket for the team’s next game on Friday, Ruutu should provide help in dealing with a physical opponent that gave the Hurricanes some trouble in their previous meeting last week, a 4-1 win for the Stars.

The move breaks up a line of Ruutu, Cole and Jeff Skinner that has had great success at times, as Ruutu seemed to adapt nicely to working primarily at the center position for the first time in several years. Maurice said that he expected Ruutu to go back to center when match-ups allowed, although Brandon Sutter will now have a chance to put up big offensive numbers on his old line.

“He’s going to go back and forth,” said Maurice. “Ruutie is a valuable guy because he can play down the middle but he’s also our big banger up front. There are nights that Eric Staal can use that and it’s good for him.”

When Ruutu does play at center, Hurricanes coaches and management have praised his ability to create turnovers and offense as the first man in on the forecheck. That’s still a point of emphasis this week, with Maurice crediting a lack of jump in that department as the reason for his team’s recent slow starts. The Canes have scored the first goal just twice in their last six games, and in one of the games in which they did strike first against Colorado, they still didn’t get their first shot on goal until 11 minutes had passed in the first period.

“A lot of your forecheck is your jump, what you’ve got in the tank and how hard you can get in on it,” said Maurice. “We want to get in more, and the other part is that on the days that we don’t get a good chip or we don’t get a good speed or whatever it is, that we can still recover a bunch of those pucks just on positioning alone.”

After a sparse 10-player showing on Monday, Tuesday’s practice saw full attendance with the exception of defenseman Joe Corvo. Maurice said that Corvo, who was one of the healthy few the previous day, was just feeling under the weather and should be available Friday.

After the first two groupings involving Staal and Sutter, the third line also had a different look with Patrick Dwyer centering Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRoseFull combinations can be found here.


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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72