Game Analysis: Back-To-Backs At Calgary, At Edmonton

After a roller-coaster 7-6 loss to Calgary Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes gave new head coach Kirk Muller his first win behind an NHL bench Thursday with a 5-3 victory at Edmonton, snapping a seven-game losing streak.

It's a stepping off point for Muller and the Canes, who seemed to be building toward a win and an identity until a terrible first period vs. the Flames emerged as a setback. But the failed, yet inspired, comeback in the final two periods in Calgary translated into a better all-around effort against the Oilers, leading to the win. At the 30-game mark, Carolina stands 9-17-4 with 22 points, last in the Eastern Conference and third-worst in the NHL.

Three Observations

1. Muller's new lines, featuring Eric Staal centering Patrick Dwyer and Jiri Tlusty and a reunion of the Finns & Skinns line, worked for a night, but it still didn't feel like the long-term solution. It's no secret that Carolina would like to add another top-six forward, and while Staal has motored back to respectability (now at 18 points in 30 games with eight points in the last six games, and points in five of six) he is in desperate need of a point-producing complementary player, and it needs to come without the Canes putting their other top threat, Jeff Skinner, alongside him.

2. How long has it been since Carolina scored at least five goals in two straight games? A loooong time. The team last did it nearly two years ago when they won two straight games 5-1 in January of 2010 against against the Bruins and at the Rangers. The last time they did on back-to-back nights? March 6 and 7, 2009, when they beat Calgary 6-1, then throttled Tampa Bay 9-3 the next night.

3. Tim Gleason's 17 penalty minutes Wednesday (two for instigating, five for fighting, 10 for a game misconduct for taking on Edmonton's Andy Sutton after a late-game hit on Skinner) pushed him to 500 for his career, just five games after he played in his 500th career game. It also gave him 402 as a Hurricane for his career, moving him past Rod Brind`Amour (398) into sixth place in Carolina history. Only Erik Cole (494), Jeff O'Neill (472), Staal (447), Glen Wesley (442) and Sean Hill (441) have accumulated more.

Number To Know

2 — a magic number for Tomas Kaberle, who registered two points in two-straight games for the first time since Feb. 7 and 8, 2011, when he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs — two teams ago.

Plus

Jamie McBain — It's been an up-and-down year for the young Carolina blueliner, but McBain has emerged since Muller reinserted him in the lineup. He had three points (one goal, two assists) in the Alberta back-to-backs, and only an after-the-fact change in scoring from the Edmonton game has prevented McBain from having goals in all three games he's played under Muller. He has five points (three goals, two assists) in those three outings, nearly doubling his season point total, which now stands at 11 points in 24 games. Only Joni Pitkanen (12 points) tops McBain among defense scoring on the Canes. McBain still struggles at times in his own end, but one can live with that if he's piling up the points.

Minus

Derek Joslin — With the apparent re-emergence of Kaberle, Joslin has the looks of being the odd-man out when either Jay Harrison or Pitkanen return from injury. Joslin's turnover that led to Calgary’s fourth goal Tuesday was a tough one to swallow, though physical errors are more acceptable than mental ones. More importantly, Joslin didn't utilize the attributes he has — physicality, a big shot — to stand out over the past two games.

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