Game Analysis: Sabres At Hurricanes

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes picked up their second straight win Thursday, overwhelming the Buffalo Sabres with 55 shots on goal and pulling away in the third period for a 4-2 win.

Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal each had two points and Cam Ward put together a second-straight solid effort to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres, 4-2.

Three Observations

1. Carolina’s last two wins might be their most complete consecutive performances of the season, but is it too little too late? Heading in to Friday’s games, the Hurricanes trail the Flyers for the second and final Eastern Conference wild card spot by six points with five total teams to climb over in the standings with just 16 games remaining, and are seven behind the Metropolitan Division’s third-place team, the Rangers, for that playoff spot. So is this finally the push Carolina needed all season, or another example of a team realizing they are essentially out of the hunt and playing a more relaxed game? Barring a truly remarkable run — Sportsclubstats.com shows that an 11-4-1 record in their final 16 games would still only give Carolina a 49.2 percent chance of making the postseason — the Hurricanes will again be on the outside looking in. The team that played the last two games is capable of such a run, especially with both goalies contributing. But it's surely an uphill climb.

2. Not only was the penalty shot called on Jiri Tlusty curious, but the fact that there was any penalty at all is up for debate. Tlusty closed on Tyler Ennis and was side-by-side with the Buffalo winger before seemingly legally tying him up. But instead of being rewarded for making a great play, Tlusty was called for an infraction and Ennis was awarded a penatly shot on which he subsequently scored.

3. Prior to Thursday’s game, the Hurricanes and Joni Pitkanen released a statement on the defenseman’s recovery from a broken heel suffered last season. While Pitkanen may have played his final game for Carolina nearly a year ago (the injury occurred on April 2, 2013), the free agent-to-be is not ruling out returning to the ice. See his statement and the press release at the end of the story.

Number To Know

30 — Combined shot attempts for Jeff Skinner and Semin, nearly a third of the 93 the Hurricanes had in the win. That included a franchise-record 13 shots on goal for Skinner. The 93 total attempts nearly doubled Buffalo's total of 47, and every Carolina player finished with at least one shot on goal as the Canes finished with a season-high 55.

Plus

Jordan Staal — Really anyone on Staal’s line, or Skinner, is worthy of this honor, but Staal not only registered two assists — his third straight multi-point game, the first time he has done that in his career — but also won an astonishing 21 of 25 faceoffs (84 percent). That included a 9-0 shutout of faceoff ace Zenon Konopka, who would rank No. 1 in the NHL (ahead of current leader and Hurricanes center Manny Malhotra at 59.2 percent) with a 61.1 percent win percentage if you combined his time with both the Wild and Sabres this season.

Minus

Andrei Loktionov — This is unfair to Loktionov, who arguably had his best game since joining the Hurricanes, but his night will be remembered most for his near-misses. Loktionov had two or three legitimate scoring opportunities and was just inches from scoring his first goal with Carolina, squarely hitting the post to Michal Neuvirth’s right on a first-period power play.

JONI PITKANEN ISSUES STATEMENT ON HIS RECOVERY
Defenseman hopes to resume playing career

RALEIGH, NC – Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen today issued the following statement as he continues to rehabilitate from a heel injury suffered last season:

"I’ve been working with Raleigh Orthopaedic throughout this season with the hope of returning to play hockey. There is no timetable as of now, but I’ve been making progress with my rehab and it remains my goal to resume my professional hockey career. It’s been frustrating to be away from the ice, but I want to thank all of the people who have expressed support throughout the season."

Pitkanen, 30, suffered a broken left calcaneus (heel) bone on April 2, 2013, against Washington. He missed the remainder of the 2012-13 season and will be out for the entire 2013-14 season. The Oulu, Finland, native has scored 57 goals and earned 225 assists in 535 career NHL regular-season games with Philadelphia, Edmonton and Carolina, since beginning his NHL career in 2003-04. Since the team’s relocation in 1997, Pitkanen (6’3", 210 lbs.) ranks third among defensemen in assists (116) and points (140), tied for fourth among club defensemen in goals (24) and eighth among team blueliners in games played (266).

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