Game Analysis: Lightning At Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes avenged their season-opening loss, dominating Tampa Bay en route to a 4-2 win at the RBC Center. Chad LaRose and Jeff Skinner each scored twice, but the news wasn't all good as the Canes lost Jussi Jokinen for about a month with an apparent leg or ankle injury.

The win moved Carolina to 5-4-3 on the season, placing them in a three-way tie for fifth in the Eastern Conference standings.

Three Observations

1. Getting two points, especially against a division foe, is great, but you have to think the Hurricanes would give them back if it meant they would have Jokinen for the month. Jokinen appeared to injure his left leg or knee when, off the faceoff, Joni Pitkanen shoved Ryan Shannon into the tangled up Jokinen and Dominic Moore. Shannon slid headfirst into the dueling centers, and Jokinen's leg bent awkwardly. Jokinen's absence will mean a chance for another player to make a case for themselves in the top nine. Either Skinner or Tuomo Ruutu will likely slide to center on that line, but any or all of Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman (recalled Wednesday), Anthony Stewart or Zac Dalpe (reassigned to Charlotte for conditioning, but could be back soon) will be expected to fill the void left by Jokinen's injury. A lot could depend on who moved to center: if it's Skinner, coach Paul Maurice might consider moving Alexei Ponikarovsky off the Brandon Sutter line and back into the top six, leaving a spot for one of the aforementioned players up on the third line. Moving Ruutu back to the middle would keep Skinner at left wing and mean perhaps one of the Charlotte contingent or Stewart could scoot up the pecking order.

2. LaRose silenced his critics Tuesday by scoring twice, including once on the power play. It was the third man-advantage goal of his career, the other two having come last season. That goal exhibited the work ethic LaRose brings every night — he simply outmuscled a much bigger Pavel Kubina to create traffic in front of Dwayne Roloson and eventually got to the loose puck behind the Tampa goalie to tie the score at 1. His second goal, off a feed from Jiri Tlusty, wasn't all that pretty either, but it got the job done. He double-hit the puck to squirt it through Roloson to put the game away. LaRose would probably be the first to admit he doesn't have first-line talent, but right now he is making up for it with determination and smarts.

3. It's a strange thing to notice, but Tampa Bay is seemingly one of the more conniving teams in the faceoff circle. From wingers jumping to the circle before the draw to pre-faceoff stick slashing, the Lightning seem to do anything and everything to gain an edge. They have a couple players that are historically good in the circle — Moore and Adam Hall are closer to 60 percent than 50 so far this season — but Steven Stamkos has been poor throughout his career while Vincent Lecavalier is simply average. The Bolts did win the draw duel Tuesday, 33-27, but the thing that stood out the most was how they toe the line of faceoff etiquette.

Number To Know

3 — Games in a row with a point for Tlusty, matching the longest such streak of his career. Tlusty had assists on Jan. 10, 12 and 14 of 2010 for his other three-game point streak. He now has points in all three games since being moved to Carolina's top line and has 10 shots in during the run. The 10 shots in three games also matches a career best, and he's done it while averaging just less than 14:30 a night in those games.

Plus

Jeff Skinner — On any other night, this honor would belong to LaRose, but Skinner's two dazzling goals are impossible to ignore. On the first he was within a stick's length of four Tampa defenders but found a way to waeve his way to Roloson's doorstep for a goal. Then the eventual game-winner came courtesy a beautiful multi-pass exchange with Jokinen that left the Lightning shaking their head. Defensemen Victor Hedman and Eric Brewer likely had nightmares about Skinner last night.

Minus

Brandon Sutter — Like the Chicago game, it's again difficult to find a goat in such a great team effort. It's especially tough to pin it on Sutter, who was pivotal in Carolina killing off two full minutes of 5-on-3 time and also played a central role in stifling Lecavalier's lien for most of the night. So this minus goes to Sutter just for his work in the faceoff circle. Sutter won just three of 17 draws on the night and was victimized mostly by Lecavalier, who went 13 of 17 on the night. On the whole, Sutter has been vastly better on draws this season, sitting at 50 percent on the year despite the 18 percent effort Tuesday, but it was a tough night in the circle for No. 16.

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