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Clicks and Clippings: Life on the Bubble

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Ruutu and Skinner warming up before the game Wednesday. The duo have been on fire this week. Photo by LTD

With 5 games remaining, there's still a lot we don't yet know about the prospect of NHL hockey in North Carolina after next weekend. There's still a good chance it will be another very long summer. However, I can assure you that the next 9 days will have even more highs and lows than we can imagine right now. In the meantime, some reading to get you through.

Local Links

A story from this morning's N&O about the 2nd intermission in Washington Tuesday night. Hurricanes gathering strength for coming storm - Chip Alexander -

That the Canes would regroup, refocus and rally to win says a lot about what happened in that locker room, of what was said by coach Paul Maurice, of how the players responded to what was said. Following a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, the Hurricanes may have been reeling - and their playoff chances all but vanished - with another defeat.


Canes Now - Before Sabres showdown, Canes have work to do The Canes' game Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres has everyone's attention. But so did a game that was played Thursday night: New York Islanders 6, New York Rangers 2. That was eye-opening.


Cam Ward is the man, video and audio from this morning's practice after the jump, Where's Ryan Miller?,  playoff race stress, Skinner love, and scary injuries, all after the jump...

Why Cam Ward is indeed the man of the hour

Making it look easy can be difficult - WRAL's Mike Maniscalco Sometimes it is hard to appreciate just how good a player is when you see him night after night. The Carolina Hurricanes fans are in that spot with goaltender Cam Ward

Ward up to the challenge - Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford doesn't hedge any in assessing the play of goaltender Cam Ward this season.


Business as Usual for Canes - Paul Branecky's Tracking the Storm Blog from Monday, where I'll highlight this quote from Jamie McBain, tucked in near the end: 

"Having that birds-eye view (while sidelined) really helps you learn some things from other players that you maybe wouldn’t notice on the ice. Sometimes you have more times to make plays than you realize."


Audio/Video options:

Quick: Paul Maurice after practice Friday 

and in-depth: The Hurricanes Report Podcast, from Paul Branecky and Kyle Hanlin, is always a worthy listen. The latest episode is from Thursday afternoon.

Inside the Locker Room 4/1/11 - Carolina Hurricanes - Katie Miller talks with Brandon Sutter, Jamie McBain, and Paul Maurice after practice on April 1st.



Playoff hopes and setbacks


 Sabres hit road minus injured G Ryan Miller -

[Sabres coach Lindy] Ruff had said that Miller was "doing OK," and didn't discount the possibility of playing this weekend. Now, that seems unlikely.

Ruff continued to be tightlipped in discussing the nature of the injury. He declined to say whether Miller has any doctor appointments scheduled, or if he'd been tested for a concussion. Ruff did express relief in saying Miller's injury is short term.



Death Watch: Rangers give Canes Hope; Jackets done, Devils next? - Puck Daddy The Rangers' next game is Sunday afternoon against the Flyers, who are 4-1 against the Blueshirts this year.


Two weeks later, Canes are very much back - Pierre LeBrun, Cross Checks Blog - ESPN "They seem to be enjoying coming to the rink," said [Maurice]. "When you have to start kicking them off the ice at the end of practice because they're still out screwing around, you know that's a good sign.


Ten reasons this playoff race has outshined all others - For the past month, I've been insisting that this was the most interesting playoff race the NHL has known in many years. Here are 10 reasons why.

From Preds on the Glass, their latest chart/schedule of how the remaining 9 days look for the entire Eastern Conference.

And of course, the geekiest of them all: Sports Club Stats'  is still tracking the Hurricanes Playoff Chances and providing their Eastern Conference Overview. For kicks and grins, try toggling between the options for "Weighted" and "50/50" as indicated at the top right of the page. I like 50/50 better.



Jeff Skinner is good at hockey


Skinner Cementing Big-Game Reputation - Branecky, TTS Blog Pegged as a big-game player from the time he was drafted, Jeff Skinner is proving that projection right.

Skinner's timing is impeccable - Luke DeCock -

The way he has been scoring lately is no coincidence, linemate Tuomo Ruutu said. The veteran has noticed significant improvements in the rookie's game without the puck - and sure enough, one of Skinner's goals Wednesday arose from good defensive position and the other from a nice defensive play.

"I've noticed, especially lately, he's really strong defensively," Ruutu said. "He's learned a lot. The thing about the goals that he scored last night and tonight, a lot of them are forecheck goals. When he gets the puck in the offensive zone, it's a shorter distance to take it to the net. I think that's been the difference."


Jeff Skinner called in to NHL Network's On the Fly following his 2-goal game vs the Habs and spoke with Heidi Androl. 

He then spoke to the team on Versus' late night "Overtime Show". They titled the video, Hurricane Phenom Jeff Skinner Interview. [I'm getting an error message that it's not available currently - so if you get that too, maybe try back later?] Jeremy Roenick does a great pitch for him to get the Calder Trophy. He also uses the term "toe pick". 


Making the pitch in Quebec: Hurricanes rookie Skinner picks up play in big game, Montreal Gazette, Pat Hickey

"Aside from the fact that he’s 18, he’s done some incredible things with the puck and he seems to play his best games in what you consider the pressure games, the big games. His third periods have been strong, he scores big games. I think those great players, that’s one of the characteristics they show. It’s not the hat tricks in the 7-1 games. They get the big goals and (Tuesday) night he showed it."


Stat mongering: Checking in with Penalties Drawn - Skinner still tops and's Rookie page - with Kevin Shattenkirk now leading for assists. 


Other rookies are good at hockey too


Maple Leafs' Reimer named March's 'Rookie of the Month' - Reimer edged Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner (7-4-11 in 14 games), Buffalo Sabres forward Tyler Ennis (6-6--12 in 16 games), New York Islanders forward Michael Grabner (6-5--11 in 13 games), Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (7-4-2, 2.78 GAA in 13 games) and Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby (6-0-0, 1.03 GAA in six games) for the award.

Couture, Skinner and Crawford down to wire in Calder race? - Puck Daddy looks at the results from the USA Today poll earlier this week 

Making the case for Corey Crawford for the Calder | The Hockey Writers When discussing candidates for the Calder Trophy, it's always a little more challenging to compare goalies to skaters...


Leafs’ youth leads way in second half - The Globe and Mail The biggest difference between this group and those that have fallen short in year’s past, however, is that this is a team built almost entirely on youth, with only two players (Mikhail Grabovski and Joffrey Lupul) older than 25 among the top 10 in ice time.

This was interesting: League-wide minutes played by rookies - Japers' Rink  When you remove minutes played by goalies, Caps drop down to #6, while Edmonton remains far ahead of the pack. Possibly interesting, Caps are third in minutes per game played by rookie skaters, which I think might indicate the quality of the rookies used.




10 thoughts from Shaya | Checkers Chatter Overheard from Sunday: Steve Yzerman mentioned he felt Chris Terry was a game-breaker type player. Yzerman, the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, was very impressed with the play of the former Plymouth Whaler.

In the System: Canes Have Solid Core of NCAA Defensemen - Carolina Hurricanes A look at the core of young defensemen that the Carolina Hurricanes have playing in the NCAA.

PHOTO from the University of Minnesota-Duluth win over Yale in the Regional Final last weekend: Justin Faulk #25 celebrates Seidel's goal (Photo) with his team-theme bleached locks. Faulk and UMD will play Notre Dame next Thursday in the opener of the NCAA Frozen Four Championships, in St Paul, Minnesota. The game starts at 5pm and will be aired on ESPN2.

From The College Hockey News, Brian Dumoulin earns a spot as one of the top 2 defensemen in NCAA hockey named to their First Team. Justin Faulk makes the All-Rookie team. 




Wideman out with Hematoma in leg, from Bob McKenzie:  Dennis Wideman was hospitalized in a Washington hospital with a significant leg hematoma as a result of a hit Tuesday by Carolina's Tuomo Ruutu.

The perceptions of the Caps press aside, here's a chance to see what happened again. Alex Ovechkin’s quest to hit Tuomo Ruutu - DC Sports Bog - The Washington Post After Hurricanes forward takes out Dennis Wideman, the Caps’ captain goes looking for revenge.

And who doesn't want to see Eric Staal's Bloody Mess | Capitals Outsider Carolina Hurricanes' captain Eric Staal apparently got clipped with a high stick and bled all over the inside right circle during the second period of Tuesday's game. Our very own LTD snapped this image during warm-ups Wednesday where you can see the extent of the cut.

And as a reminder that this can be a very big deal: Malhotra injury sends shiver through Canuck teammates - The Globe and Mail The excitement the Vancouver Canucks feel over the best campaign in franchise history has been dampened by a season-ending eye injury to centre Manny Malhotra.


Must read

for anyone who ever felt like the Canadian media was missing the boat about hockey in a non-traditional market:

The Damndest Trade You Ever Saw: When Mr. Carrie Underwood Came to Nash Vegas - On the Forecheck The country music angle on the Mike Fisher trade dominated coverage around the NHL, everywhere but Nashville.