After the opening weeks of the season, the Carolina Hurricanes sit at 3-3-3 on the season. Not quite the Vegas 7-7-7 jackpot, but Paul Maurice’s squad has 9 points in 9 games and sits at 9th in the Eastern Conference standings. Ok – enough of the play on numbers.
After an active off-season, the first question to resolve is how the lines are going to shape up. Coach Maurice has already played around with that question through the team’s first 9 games. Each game, there has been a different offensive pairing. In Tuesday night’s game against the Senators, the Hurricanes experimented with a top line of Eric Staal, Jiri Tlusty and Chad LaRose which dropped Alexei Ponikarovski down again to the team’s checking line.
Caniacs love the second line combination of “Finns and Skins” – Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Skinner – so I can’t see Maurice touching that productive line for a while. They have tallied 21 total points, including Skinner’s team leading 6 goals and 10 points. Against the Ottawa Senators, Skinner netted the game tying, power play goal on a deflection to force overtime. It wasn’t the prettiest goal but it got the job done and earned the Hurricanes one point.
Coach’s take home points are to move the puck deep into the zone to maximize scoring chances and using speed in the neutral zone to open up the lanes to the net. Clearly offense has been the focus of recent team practices and Caniacs can only hope that some kind of chemistry emerges in the next couple of weeks so they don’t have to panic about shifting lines near the All-Star festivities like they had to last season.
The next four games for the Hurricanes are the Blackhawks on Friday, the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday and the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals to open up November. I hope Maurice is comfortable with his offensive line chemistry for the coming week because the schedule is not in the Hurricanes’ favor. There is still plenty of time to adjust the lines to reach maximum potential from their talent but the Canes need to concentrate on closing the stretch with 4 points if they can.