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NHL Carolina Hurricanes

5 Players From Which Carolina Hurricanes Must Demand More

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5 Players From Which Carolina Hurricanes Must Demand More

James Guillory - USA Today Sports

Of course, when the Carolina Hurricanes are doing well, the natural tendency is to say “don't change anything, the team is dialed in.”

Yes, they are doing well. Despite getting shut out by the Columbus Blue Jackets, they had a nice five-game win streak and played magnificently during that span. With key players set to return from injury, things can keep getting better for the Hurricanes. With all the success in January, there are still some loose ends.

It's never enough to sit back and declare everything is fine when there are improvements to be made. Head coach Kirk Muller cannot in good conscience tell his team, “You're good, boys. Keep doing it”, because to not demand higher performance in any situation is to do your players a disservice. Are they doing well? Yes. Could they be doing better? Of course they could be doing better.

The Metropolitan Division is not exactly the road to Mordor these days. As the redheaded stepchild of the Eastern Conference, not doing well in the Metropolitan is a death sentence for legitimacy. Yet, it also breeds the opportunity to blast into a playoff spot that is just as good as any other spot.

While the focus tends to be on the guys doing well like Jeff Skinner and Jordan Staal, that is dangerous as it allows some players to avoid a spotlight that probably needs to be shone on them. Sitting in the shadows of other players' glory are five guys who are not performing at full tilt.

Not to say these five players are unskilled. In fact, it's quite the opposite. They are talented players that for whatever reason are not putting all of their talent on the ice. These are players who could use a fire being lit under their skates.

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5. Nathan Gerbe

Tom Szczerbowski - USA Today Sports

While Nathan Gerbe came into this season like a wrecking ball, his momentum might be waning a bit.

The player whose name could not be spoken without an accompanying profanity to punctuate how amazingly he was playing has now become an also-ran on the lineup card. While Gerbe does show up and perform here and there and that's great, it's not the steady face-melting performance he showed early on.

It's the old Gerbe that needs to suit up.

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4. Radek Dvorak

Anne-Marie Sorvin - USA Today Sports

Radek Dvorak is the textbook example of the good player who isn't performing.

While he's battled the injury thing during the season, that in no way mutes the fact he's capable of more than what he's putting out there. The proof of this is that he has done so in the past. Just like Gerbe, a little here and a little there isn't what the team needs at this point.

Having Dvorak anchor the third line and do it well is going to carry the Hurricanes into the playoffs.

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3. Riley Nash

Sergei Belski - USA Today Sports

This is an entirely different situation from the other four.

The thing about Riley Nash is that he's a great hockey player that isn't being asked to do such. The other four guys are being asked to perform well and aren't. Nash is trying to step it up. The Hurricanes need to demand more from Nash -- and aren't.

Once the team realizes that he will rise to lofty expectations and actually set them, Nash will emerge as a star.

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2. Tuomo Ruutu

James Guillory - USA Today Sports

Has the sun set on Tuomo Ruutu's tenure with the Hurricanes?

Hopefully not, because he's quite the hockey player. Whereas he was on the upper lines in the past, he's now hanging out on the fourth line. While it might work well for him to mentor younger guys, Ruutu could be of more help to the team in other ways. Like scoring goals.

If Ruutu can prove himself at the level he needs to, he could get back to being a weapon and not trade bait.

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1. Justin Faulk

Tom Szczerbowski - USA Today Sports

There's two types of Hurricanes fans -- those who are behind Justin Faulk and those who think he's a bum.

Faulk found himself named to the U.S. Olympic Team for the 2014 Sochi games. Why that happened is beyond explanation because he doesn't belong there. Faulk tends to do stupid things at the most inopportune moments. While his output may be acceptable, there's no amount of output that can fix poorly-timed screw-ups.

The sooner the Hurricanes can get Faulk's head back on straight, the sooner his output can mean something more.