Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jay Harrison is finally feeling healthy this season and it's showing in his game. Last year, the blueliner fought an undisclosed injury for a good part of the season. While it hampered his game somewhat, he fought through it and performed as well as he could.
Recently, I asked Harrison if he had recovered and how he felt this season was going so far.
"Physically, I'm feeling quite good actually. Recovery took a bit longer than I thought it would. It's something you have to maintain and stay on top of all the time, but at this point in the schedule and considering what we have been through, I feel very confident that it's behind me."
Harrison continued, "Regarding this season, I think we are off to a pretty good start. There are a lot of positive things to take from it, and there are also a lot of things to improve on and move forward."
The numbers look pretty good for the 28-year-old so far. Even though he is logging the fewest average minutes of anyone on the blueline, (13:24), he is tied for the lead with Tim Gleason with the most hits for Carolina defensemen, (17). He also has a team high two fighting majors.
We chatted a bit about that part of his game as well.
"I don't consider myself to be a player who is out there looking for a fight," he said. "But I do feel that my style of game, being that it's a physical style, dictates that it will happen from time to time."
Harrison elaborated. "When you play a physically tough game, you're going to draw some confrontations with people. Or occasionally, when a teammate needs to be stuck up for, then there is a time for that as well. But I tend not to take the position of going to look for fights. Enough fights will find you, and they sure do happen to find me," he chuckled as he finished up.
The defenseman is not necessarily known to be a great fighter, but he typically holds his own. According to Hockeyfights.com, Harrison is 0-2 this season and is 2-2-2 in six fights last year.
Overall, he tries to keep his game simple and prefers to focus on taking care of his own end, but he has also tried to pick up his offense in recent games. When Paul Maurice was questioned if he asked Harrison to shoot more often, the coach replied, "Yes, we have asked all our defensemen to shoot more. We want them to shoot the puck and get it to the net as often as possible."
But even though he might be shooting more often, don't look for a lot of goals from the Oshawa native. He's scored just once in his NHL career of 70 games. Regardless, the Hurricanes will most likely be pleased if he just keeps doing what he's been able to do in recent games, clear the crease in front of Cam Ward and play a physical brand of hockey in his own end. Or as he puts it, "keeping a clean house."
Harrison is currently tied with a fourth best (+2) on the team and he seems to be playing a more consistent game than he did last season, (-8). If he can stay healthy, keep his mistakes to a minimum, and continue to improve, he could end up being the most improved player from last year's squad.
The Hurricanes will do battle with the Florida Panthers tonight in Sunrise. We will have a game preview up around lunchtime.