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Carolina Hurricanes Weekly Thoughts: All-Star Justin Faulk, Five-Game Losing Streak, and a New Look Up Front

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Before we return to normality, here are some thoughts about the past week of Carolina Hurricanes hockey and the All-Star break.

NHL: NHL All Star Game-Skills Competition Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

A fun all-star weekend in Los Angeles featured a fourth appearance from Carolina Hurricanes blueliner Justin Faulk.

Faulk participated in the skills relay for the Metropolitan Division, an event that the division won, and then went on to tally a goal and five points over two games en route to the Metro’s 3-on-3 tournament win on Sunday.

As he always does, Justin Faulk represented the Hurricanes incredibly well on all fronts. He was stellar on the ice and he was stellar off the ice.

With the influx of players like Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, and Noah Hanifin, I think it’s important to remember just how important Faulk is to this organization.

Has he played up to his standards this season? No, but he has continued to hold and exemplify the values that this team thinks are important.

Hopefully, another all-star accolade for Faulk will give him confidence going into the second half of the regular season as the Hurricanes look to claw their way into the postseason for the first time since 2009.

  • For the first time in 82 games, the Hurricanes were shutout on Thursday by the Los Angeles Kings. It was the league’s longest active streak of not being shutout, which should be a testament to how Carolina has evolved into the team that they are now. Game in and game out, they have gotten on the board and, more often than not, they have been competitive.
  • After winning four in a row and five of six, Carolina has swiftly come back down to Earth. They’ve lost five consecutive games, getting outscored 23-5 in the process. It’s been a perfect storm of lackluster defense, inept offense, poor effort and spotty goaltending for the Hurricanes since January 17. Their losing streak makes tonight’s divisional matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers incredibly important. The Hurricanes are seven points behind the Flyers, who hold the second wild-card spot. It’s one of the biggest “must-win” games to date for Carolina.
  • Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask combined for ten scoring points in the span of two games in wins against Columbus and Buffalo on January 10 and 13, but the duo hasn’t found the scoresheet in the six games since. If the Hurricanes are going to turn things around ahead of their bye week, they need these two to start contributing.
  • If they are going to do so, it will likely be with new linemates. Skinner hopped on a line with Derek Ryan and Lee Stempniak and Rask centered Brock McGinn and Teuvo Teravainen in Monday’s practice. Skinner has played considerable minutes with both Ryan and Stempniak this season, so they should be able to develop some chemistry rather quickly, but Rask hasn’t seen much time with either Teravainen or McGinn, so it will be interesting to see how effective they are. Bill Peters said that he liked what he saw from his new forward lines on Monday.
  • The only player that has provided consistent offense for the Hurricanes over the past five games is Sebastian Aho. Aho contributed either a goal or assist on three of Carolina’s five scoring plays over the past five games and has been an offensive threat on a nightly basis. His 12 goals ranks third amongst all NHL rookies and his 26 points comes in seventh. While he likely won’t be a Calder finalist due to big rookie seasons from the likes of Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews, Zach Werenski and Mitch Marner, his potential is still incredible, and his ability to shine through despite the poor play from his team as a whole is very impressive.
  • The overuse of Cam Ward may be coming to an end soon. Eddie Lack suited up for the Charlotte Checkers over the all-star break, allowing just three goals on 62 shots over two starts. Bill Peters said on Monday that he will start at least one of Carolina’s five games before their bye week.
  • In prospect news, defenseman Jake Bean and goaltender Jeremy Helvig were the big standouts over the past week. Bean, Carolina’s 13th overall pick in June’s draft, had a big week as he put up eight points in two games for the Calgary Hitmen to start their weekend slate of games, including a hat-trick performance in an overtime loss to the Regina Pats on Friday. The defenseman has been electric since returning from World Juniors. Helvig was given OHL player of the week honors today after posting two shutouts and a .956 save percentage in three starts for the Kingston Frontenacs.
  • With 34 games left in the regular season, Carolina needs to make up for their five-game skid and they need to do it quick. To reach 95 points, the Hurricanes would have to pick up 46 points in 34 games, so a 21-9-4 record or a record in that ballpark would get them there, but based on how tight things are, they may even need to hit 96 or 97 points. Things don’t look promising for the Hurricanes, but it’s still more than possible for the club to make a strong playoff push.