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Faulk Steps Right in For Checkers

Wednesday, 04.20.2011 / 11:07 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Faulk Steps Right in For Checkers

As rapidly as Justin Faulk has risen through the ranks, he never seems to have much trouble adjusting to his new surroundings.

Paul Branecky
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The Hurricanes’ 19-year-old defensive prospect was given a tough task for his professional debut on Wednesday night, stepping in to Game 4 of the American Hockey League Charlotte Checkers’ first-round series against the Hershey Bears. With the Checkers heading into the game trailing 2-1 in the series, throwing a rookie into the fire isn’t exactly a textbook move.

Then again, Faulk, who has played in a World Junior Championship and won an NCAA championship since being drafted by the Hurricanes last June, may not be the average rookie.

“He’s a confident kid,” said Checkers head coach Jeff Daniels. “He didn’t look nervous before the game, and he’s played a lot of big-time hockey this year from the World Juniors to the championship he just won. You roll that into tonight’s game and he was a big plus for us tonight.”

“They had the confidence to put me in there, and I think I answered it pretty well,” said Faulk.

Faulk did look comfortable in his debut, helping the Checkers to a 3-2 victory that tied the series heading into Game 5 on Friday night in Charlotte. A big scorer as a college freshman at the University of Minnesota-Duluth to the tune of 33 points in 39 games, he was held without a point but instead made his mark with his steady defensive presence and solid work along the boards in his own zone – areas that are not always a given from point-producing blue liners.

“That’s part of what I like most about the game – battling in the corners,” said Faulk. “I really try to take pride in my game in the defensive zone. I don’t like to get beat down there.”

That being said, Faulk did nearly open the scoring on an odd-man rush with Zach Boychuk and Jon Matsumoto in the first period. However, his shot went just wide – something that was a common occurrence for a Checkers team that wasn’t officially credited with a shot on goal until the game was 15 minutes old. He also made a nice pass from the point to Matsumoto in the second, but Hershey goaltender Braden Holtby made a good save.

“For the most part our back end is pretty stay-at-home, and all of the sudden you see someone like him jumping up in the play on his second or third shift,” said Daniels. “He jumped up and he’s flying.”

As is the case with just about any playoff game, things got physical, particularly near the end of the second period when eight penalties were called in the final five minutes. Rather than find that intimidating, Faulk, who did acknowledge that players are bigger and faster at the professional level, was actually somewhat relieved.

“With the visor on (instead of the full face shield required in college), there’s not as many guys running around just trying to smoke you and kill you in the corners. Here when they hit you they try to keep their hands down a little bit, which is nice.”

Nice. If that’s as rattled as Faulk gets, he should do well for the remainder of the Checkers playoff run. After that, he may be looking to make his next step just as quickly.


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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 55 32 17 6 153 127 70
3 NYR 55 31 18 6 157 140 68
4 BOS 55 30 19 6 163 150 66
5 DET 55 28 18 9 138 134 65
6 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
7 TBL 54 30 20 4 144 130 64
8 PIT 54 28 19 7 139 136 63
9 NJD 56 28 21 7 124 124 63
10 PHI 54 24 20 10 128 140 58
11 CAR 55 24 21 10 131 143 58
12 MTL 56 27 25 4 151 151 58
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 BUF 56 22 28 6 131 155 50
15 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 54 15 19 -13 34
J. Skinner 55 19 12 -3 31
V. Rask 53 12 19 0 31
J. Staal 55 12 19 7 31
K. Versteeg 54 10 21 1 31
E. Staal 55 9 21 1 30
E. Lindholm 55 8 16 -9 24
A. Nestrasil 48 8 12 0 20
J. Nordstrom 44 5 10 2 15
R. Hainsey 55 3 11 -12 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 15 11 7 .909 2.34
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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