Game Analysis: Hurricanes Back-To-Back At St. Louis, At Winnipeg

WINNIPEG, CANADA - OCTOBER 22: Chris Mason #50 of the Winnipeg Jets blocks a shot as Eric Staal #12 of the Carolina Hurricanes looks on in NHL action at the MTS Centre on October 22, 2011 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

Despite holding early 2-0 leads in both games, the Carolina Hurricanes came away with just one point in the back-to-back games against the Blues and Jets that capped off their four-game road trip.

The Canes still sit eighth in the Eastern Conference with eight points and a 3-3-2 record, but the team's 82-point pace is clearly not enough to get to the postseason come the spring. The good news? The Canes are tied with Colorado for the most road games played with six — the Rangers officially have that many, too, but had two neutral site games — so hopefully some home cooking will get Carolina into a better spot.

Three Observations

1. Eric Staal was held without a point and was minus-1 both nights of the back to back, pushing his league-worst plus/minus to minus-10. Coach Paul Maurice's bottom two lines are pretty set, which has limited what he can do with his top six forwards. He reunited the line of Jussi Jokinen centering Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Skinner during Saturday's game, and it resulted in a third-period goal. That left Staal with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Chad LaRose on his wings. While Staal has had his share of bad breaks of late, hitting several posts and seeing opposing goalies make great stops on his attempts, it's becoming clearer by the game that he needs help on the top line. Whether that comes in the form of a recall from Charlotte, another jumbling of lines, or even a minor deck-shuffling by GM Jim Rutherford, the Canes need to get their captain going.

2. Carolina's power play put up a goose egg over the weekend, and it likely cost them at least two points. The Hurricanes had plenty of opportunities against Winnipeg to get back in the game in the third period, only to see their power play come up empty. At times, the man advantage looked good — Tomas Kaberle's ability to consistently keep the puck in the offensive zone has led to several chances this season — but moral victories don't get Carolina any more points in the standings.

3. The Hurricanes' dreadful performance in the faceoff circle (combined 37.8 percent) cost them dearly in the two games. Carolina struggled to gain control of the puck and managed just 52 shots over the weekend. The regression pushed the Canes to 29th in the league in faceoff winning percentage (45.8), and the fact that they were so clearly outclassed by an average faceoff team (St. Louis: 50.2 percent, 12th in the NHL) and a bad one (Winnipeg: 46.7 percent, 28th in the NHL) makes one wonder if one of Carolina's biggest problems last season is again rearing its ugly head.

Number To Know

7 — Hits for Tuomo Ruutu in the two games. The Finnish forward is starting to look more like his old self. He was active throughout the games — specifically against the Jets — and managed to get his second goal of the year to pull Carolina back into the game Saturday.

Plus

Jeff Skinner — The sophomore sniper got back on track over the weekend. He did not register any points against St. Louis, but his six shots were twice as many as the next closest teammate, and he was an emerging threat throughout the game. Against Winnipeg, Skinner broke through for three points (a goal and two assists) to push his season total to nine in eight games. That total ties him for 10th in the NHL in scoring.

Minus

Brian Boucher — Boucher only appeared in the Jets game, but he struggled in his second start with Carolina. Jim Slater's go-ahead goal was one he should've stopped, and on the whole it felt like a game the Hurricanes would have won with Cam Ward in net. Unfortunately for Boucher, he was also victimized by a funny bounce on Andrew Ladd's goal that made the game 4-2. After a solid preseason and a decent showing against Washington earlier in the year, we'll chalk this one up to being just not his night.

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