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The Hurricanes will go into Friday night’s home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins still looking for their first win after dropping their opening game to Montreal two days earlier.
The Canadiens skated away 3-2 winners in overtime that night, thanks to captain Saku Koivu’s second goal of the game on the power play just over a minute into the extra frame.
As is often the case in the National Hockey League, special teams were what determined the outcome of that game. The Hurricanes scored one goal in seven power play attempts and couldn’t quite find the next in two separate two man advantages, and allowed Montreal to score three power play goals in eight chances.
While those numbers aren’t exactly the start Carolina had hoped for, as far as the power play is concerned, they don’t really tell the whole story either.
The Hurricanes revamped power play unit, which has newcomers Matt Cullen and Jeff Hamilton in featured roles, actually looked pretty good for much of the night. The puck movement and shots were there, but the goals just weren’t coming the way they should have.
“That’s the way the game works,” said Cullen, who along with Hamilton and Staal is one of three forwards to play the point on Carolina’s man-advantage units. “You can have the best power play in the league and snap the puck around, and it’s just not going to go in sometimes. As long as we stick to getting the puck to the net and getting traffic in front, I think we’ll have the success with the guys we have.”
While acknowledging that the new power play units are still a work in progress, coach Peter Laviolette also had some good things to say about their performance against the Canadiens.
“I do think we moved it around and I do think we established a lot of shots,” he said. “I think we had 14 or 15 shots on the power play, but just one goal. If we had gotten one more, maybe the game doesn’t go to overtime.”
The general feeling in the locker room regarding the power play is that if the players continue to do what they’re doing, the goals will present themselves. The bigger concern will likely be the penalty kill, which was responsible for all three of Montreal’s tallies.
“I think that we need to be better,” said Laviolette. “For me, the penalty kill is dead-on routes and stopping and starting and blocking shots, and we were not in those lanes and we need to do a better job of that. I think that we can tighten that up and sharpen that up.”
The Hurricanes’ penalty killers will get a big test against the Penguins on Friday. Not much more can be said about the dangers of last season’s MVP, Sidney Crosby, but his supporting cast of forwards is one of the most dynamic in the league.
Included in that group is Hurricanes center Eric Staal’s younger brother Jordan. A rookie of the year finalist last season, Jordan Staal figures to feature even more prominently with the Penguins this time around.
”He’s a good player and he’s someone we need to key on to stop, so it’ll be a fun battle tomorrow night,” said big brother Eric. “I definitely have those games circled on the calendar.”
Carolina will also have to watch out for the younger Staal when they have the extra man on the ice, as Jordan led the league with seven shorthanded goals last year.