Tracking the Storm

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.


SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

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