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Aho Playing With Newfound Confidence Heading Into 100th Game

20-year-old Finnish forward has two goals, five points in last two games

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

BUFFALO, N.Y. - In the underbelly of KeyBank Center, a lowered basketball hoop sat no more than two feet off the ground near where Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen were kicking around a soccer ball. So, they made a new game out of it - kick it into the hoop.

Easy enough for Aho, who is playing with a newfound swagger after scoring two goals in his last two games to hatch the goose egg that incubated in his goals column for the first 15 games of the season.

"You always get a boost for your confidence when you score your first one," Aho said. "I just try to play the same way."

Video: DAL@CAR: Aho slides backhand through the five-hole

It wasn't as if Aho didn't have his chances prior to getting off the schneid against Dallas on Monday. He had good looks, and it was just a matter of time before the first one found twine.

"He was [putting pressure on himself]. You don't want to say he is, but he definitely was. Then you see him today, and he's shooting it into the net like crazy. That's all it takes is that first one," head coach Bill Peters said after practice on Tuesday. "He's been playing well and getting quality chances, and that's always a bigger indicator. … Hopefully it's a sign of good things to come."

And while the goals might not have been there, it wasn't as if Aho had been invisible on the scoresheet. The Finnish forward racked up eight assists in the first 15 games, including a pair of helpers on opening night. He now is tied for the team lead in assists with 11.

Video: CAR@NYI: Teravainen feeds Aho for go-ahead goal

"I still made some plays. Scoring goals is not only my game," he said. "I try to be a versatile player and try to make some plays."

Now Aho is making plays on a line that has been the Hurricanes' most dangerous, with Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen alongside him.

"It's been a lot of fun playing with Turbo and Jordo," he said. "They've been really good."

"Both very talented players. Both of them have great hands and great vision. I'm just trying to make some room for them and go to the net hard," Staal said after Monday's win over Dallas. "They do a lot with the puck, and I've kind of got the easy part. It's been fun playing with those two guys. Hopefully we continue to contribute for this team."

Having played in all 82 of the Canes' games in his rookie season and all 17 in the 2017-18 campaign, Aho is set to play in his 100th career game on Saturday night in Buffalo.

"It came really quick for me," he said. "It feels pretty good to play my 100th game in the NHL."

Video: CAR@NYI: Lindholm deflects home point shot for PPG

Looking back on his first 99, Aho said the biggest lesson he's learned thus far is understanding what's required on a day-to-day, game-to-game basis.

"The main key is how you prepare yourself. There are many games in the league, so you have to be ready for every night," he said. "I played over 100 games in Finland, so I was getting used to it before I came here. I talked with older NHL players from my town - Jussi Jokinen and those guys - who helped mentally prepare myself."

Now after shedding the proverbial monkey off his back, Aho's mental preparation is just a bit simpler.

"I knew it was coming, and I'm glad it happened," he said.

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