With injuries seemingly mounting day-by-day and sometimes shift-by-shift for a second straight season, the Carolina Hurricanes are again forced to look at some minor league help to get them through this rough stretch of bad luck.
Look no further than 25-year-old Dwight Helminen, who played in
Coach Peter Laviolette joked that Helminen started on the fourth line, was jumped up to the third line during the middle portion of the game and finished with Eric Staal.
“That’s pretty good progress for one night,” Laviolette said.
In addition to Helminen’s stong play, the Canes’ struggling power play accounted for three goals for the first time this season -- including Staal’s empty-netter that sealed it with 21.7 seconds left – and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg remained a rock on defense, logging 28 minutes while dishing out five hits and blocking three shots.
The injuries continued to mount as Matt Cullen sat this one out with a leg injury. In addition to Cullen, the Canes were without injured players Frank Kaberle (leg), Joni Pitkanen (knee), and Scott Walker and Justin Williams (injured reserve) – a combined 2,718 games of NHL experience. To make matters worse, Patrick Eaves missed the second and third periods with an illness and captain Rod Brind’Amour and Sergei Samsonov both went down on the same play early in the third – Brind’Amour after blocking a shot and Samsonov with a leg injury. It was scary, but both returned after just missing one shift.
“I looked at Tom Rowe and couldn’t believe we had two more going down,” Laviolette said. “It was really a relief and a positive to see both of those guys back on the bench within a shift and able to go back on the ice.”
“We were kind of sitting on our heels, we weren’t really skating,” Whitney said of the two-goal deficit. “Everybody was playing a little bit cautious and our history the last four years as a team has been kind of skate first and then think as you’re going. At times when we’ve gotten into problems we’ve been thinking before we’re actually moving, in turn that means you’re not working.”
A little more than a minute after Whitney’s goal Helminen scored his first NHL goal as he was being leveled in the slot to tie it.
“He had a good camp and his name has come up in the past,” Laviolette of his decision to tap Helminen from the minors before some other players who were up with the big club last season. “A lot of times it seems like we need a center, and when Matt went down and Sutter went down, sometimes you pick based on position. They said he had played real well and was one of their top players down there.”
With the crowd back into it, the Canes continued to press the issue over the last two minutes of the period instead of settling for a tie heading into the third. The aggressive play resulted in the go-ahead goal by Tuomo Ruutu, who circled behind Curtis Joseph and beat the veteran goal with a spectacular top-shelf shot to the short side.
“We just started to work harder and that’s why we got to more pucks,” Ruutu said. “The goal I scored, it was the same kind of example, working hard and getting to the net and it went in.”
Helminen picked up an assist on LaRose’s third goal just 1:15 into the third to give the Canes some breathing room at 5-3, but the Maple Leafs closed within one with 11:16 remaining before Carolina killed off a penalty to Joe Corvo with 9:22 left and held the Maple Leafs at bay for 45 seconds with Joseph off for an extra attacker.
The Canes managed just one shot on goal in the opening 14 minutes with a make-shift lineup as
“When I was called up I was just looking to do the little things, things to help the team win games,” Helminen said. “Our fourth line role is to work the simple game. With the injuries I’ve gotten a little more responsibility, but it still comes down to doing the small things.”NOTES: Staal played in his 265th consecutive game. The center last sat out on March 20, 2004. … Samsonov’s assist on