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Game Analysis: Hurricanes Snap Slump In A Big Way

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The Carolina Hurricanes earned wins at home on back-to-back nights, topping the struggling Arizona Coyotes Saturday then beating the reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings Saturday.

Cam Ward rewarded his team’s hard work with two wins this weekend.
Cam Ward rewarded his team’s hard work with two wins this weekend.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Earning the first win of the season after a dreadful October wasn't enough for the Carolina Hurricanes. After beating the Coyotes 3-0 Saturday, Carolina followed that up with a 3-2 win over the Kings less than 24 hours later.

Three Observations

1. A wise man once said:

1. Swedish forwards Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask have struggled to put up points through seven games. The duo has combined for just one assist this season despite each averaging nearly 17 minutes a night and an identical 2:25 of power play time per game. For Lindholm, it's a bump in the road for a player that is penciled in as part of Carolina's future. But Rask — who had such a fantastic September — needs to make an impression if he wants to avoid a demotion back to Charlotte as the Hurricanes get players back from injury.

OK, he wasn't wise at all. It was me following Carolina’s back-to-back losses in Calgary and Edmonton. But wow, did the Swedes ever show up for the Canes’ next two-games-in-two-nights set. Lindholm had four points (three goals and an assist) in the Hurricanes’ two wins and Rask got his first NHL point and goal when he opened the scoring vs. L.A. It was a much-needed confidence boost for both the players and the team, and — surprise, surprise — it helped lead to two wins.

2. One of the criticisms frequently levied at Eric Staal is the number of obstruction penalties he has taken in recent seasons. But five games into his 2014-15 campaign, Staal has not taken any penalties and dating back to the end of last year is on a nine-game stretch without spending time in the penalty box. Staal has looked more engaged this season — even though he was shelved with an injury during Carolina’s second game of the season — and is playing and leading like a captain.

3. It looks like Alexander Semin will be back in the lineup Tuesday at Columbus. Semin sat out both wins, but Carolina will need the No. 28 of 2012-13 if they are to continue their steep climb out of the NHL's basement. Here's the good news for Carolina: while the team played extremely well in their two wins, the top line was pretty quiet vs. L.A. Adding Semin gives the No. 1 trio a chance to make a difference, while moving Skinner down immediately makes whatever line he joins more dangerous. It's the right move by coach Bill Peters.

Number To Know

2 — Hurricanes players averaging more than 20 minutes per game (Justin Faulk, 22:30; and Andrej Sekera, 20:51). Carolina is one of just three teams in the league with only two players logging 20-plus minutes through Sunday’s games (several have all top-four defensemen playing more than a full period each night). Nashville employs workhorses Shea Weber (27:27) and Roman Josi (27:12), while Ottawa has former Norris winner Erik Karlsson (27:17) and Chris Phillips (23:55). Jiri Tlusty leads all Canes forwards at 19:46 per night, and every player currently on the roster averages at least 11 minutes of ice time (Brad Malone the lowest at 11:00).

Plus

Cam Ward — The Ward that showed up this weekend was the player the Hurricanes and their fans have been looking for since ... well, a long time. Ward wasn't perfect in his shutout win — he nearly let the Coyotes back in the game with some shoddy puck-handling — but he made the big saves when needed to get Carolina their first win. On Sunday he was even better, making huge saves down the stretch in a tight game. He will get the start again Tuesday in Columbus.

Minus

Jay Harrison — It's hard to find faults in two convincing wins, but Harrison’s late penalty vs. the Kings — called after a sequence that started with him getting the pylon treatment — was his second of the night and kept him in the top five in PIMs in the NHL with 31 in just eight games played.