Tracking the Storm: Analysis
-- Even without captain Eric Staal, the Carolina Hurricanes keep rolling, winning their fourth straight game by topping the Nashville Predators 2-1. Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner tallied for Carolina, and Anton Khudobin made 31 saves for his third win in as many starts. “I thought we did a pretty solid job all game … being responsible defensively and getting pucks in when we needed to,” Skinner said. “It was nice to get one there and have that hard work pay off for us.”
-- Skinner scored the game-winning goal with just 3:31 remaining in regulation, as he fired one five-hole after Semin and Tuomo Ruutu worked the puck out from behind the net. Skinner has only played in 32 games this season, but he already has a team-leading 20 goals and is second in team scoring with 33 points (20g, 13a). The difference continues to be his knack of scoring big goals when the team needs them the most. “He keeps on ticking. I’m really happy for him, and I’m very happy for our hockey team. He’s scoring, and he’s scoring clutch goals. That’s the difference,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “The guys that we needed to score tonight in a grinding-type game … came through for us.”
-- Team Canada will announce its Olympic roster on Tuesday, Jan. 7. With the way Skinner has been playing, does he make the cut? He’s certainly thrust himself into the conversation. “I’d like, as his coach, to push for him,” Muller said. “The country is fortunate to have a lot of good hockey players and forwards. It really comes down to that he’s a dynamic player. He’s an opportunist. He’s a game-breaking kind of guy.”
-- Skinner on the Team Canada talk: “It’s not really in my control. I’ve heard what’s been said, but I can’t really worry about it too much. Right now, we’re just trying to keep this thing (winning streak) going. That’s pretty much my only focus.”
-- One last note on Skinner: He left in the game in the second period after taking a puck in the face. Luckily, his visor lessened the blow, as it bounced off the visor and caught him just below the nose, leaving nothing more than a "fat lip," as he said.
-- After missing 32 games with an ankle injury, Khudobin has started in three games in four nights and won each of them. In that stretch, he’s stopped 107 of 113 shots faced, including a 31-save performance against the Predators tonight. Combined with the two back-to-back starts he made during a conditioning stint in Charlotte, Khudobin has played five games in an eight-day stretch – and performed very well. “I was just really, really pumped before the first game (back),” Khudobin said. “When you didn’t play for two-and-a-half months … the first game in the AHL, I felt like I couldn’t stop the pucks but after, I figured out how to do it. I remembered again.”
-- Khudobin was in rare form after the game tonight. He said that he was just glad to be back playing hockey again. When he was injured, he said, he was very bored. How bored? “I was buying Legos to at least kill some time,” he said. He built a truck with a remote control, something that took him about 12 hours, he said. It’s an instant classic sound bite, and you can listen to it here: http://downloads.hurricanes.nhl.com/audio1314/khudobinpost010514.mp3
-- With the Canes down a forward, they employed centers-by-committee, with Skinner and Ruutu playing down the middle on the first line. Skinner said other than systematic differences between playing center and wing, the adjustment wasn’t too jarring. “It’s not too bad, especially when you have guys talking out there,” he said. “Ruuty and Sems did a great job in the D-zone helping me out.”
-- The Canes saw stellar play from their fourth line of Zach Boychuk, Brett Sutter and newly-recalled Aaron Palushaj. Each played around 10 minutes, sustaining a number of grinding offensive shifts in Nashville’s zone. “Everyone worked hard,” Muller said. “The fourth line gave us great energy and great time in the offensive zone.”
-- Eric Staal missed his first game with an injury since Feb. 26, 2011. He had since played in 191 consecutive games. Now in his 10th NHL season, Staal had missed just 12 games due to injury prior to tonight, including 10 in 2009-10 alone.
-- Khudobin on the importance of team leadership: “Everybody has to be a leader. That’s going to be the key to success.”
-- The Hurricanes will look to stay unbeaten in 2014 (3-0-0) and extend their winning streak to five games when they travel to Buffalo on Tuesday. Log-jammed near the bottom of the Metropolitan Division just a week ago, the winning streak has vaulted the Canes to just a point out of a playoff spot. “Every game right now is really important to us,” Khudobin said. “If we lose the points, we’re going to lose a playoff spot.”
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Jeff Skinner's goal from the right circle with 3:31 remaining lifted the Carolina Hurricanes to a 2-1 win against the Nashville Predators, giving Carolina a season-high four-game winning streak.
The goal was Skinner's 16th in his past 16 games. He had left the game in the second period after taking a puck to the face in the neutral zone, but he came back to start the third.
Carolina goaltender Anton Khudobin stopped 31 shots to raise his record to 5-0-0 and his career mark to 19-5-1.
The Hurricanes and Predators each played on the road Saturday night; Carolina defeated the New York Islanders 3-2, while Nashville lost to the Florida Panthers 5-4 in a shootout.
With the Predators trailing 1-0 in the third period, Patric Hornqvist tied the game at 6:46 when he swept the puck into the net after taking a pass from Mike Fisher, who has points in five straight games (four goals, six assists).
The Hurricanes had played with a 1-0 lead since 4:28 of the first period when Alexander Semin gathered a loose puck behind the net and flipped it off the back of Nashville goaltender Carter Hutton and into the net. Tuomo Ruutu earned an assist, as did Skinner, who extended his point streak to five games.
Carolina played without captain Eric Staal, who left the game against the Islanders with a lower-body injury. Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller expects Staal to be out five or six days.
Staal had not missed a game since Feb. 26, 2011, snapping his streak of 191 consecutive games played.