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Defense Getting Offensive

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes

It was more obvious last night, but it’s been a theme throughout the first month of the season – more goals by defensemen.

Paul Branecky
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Including Dennis Seidenberg and Joe Corvo’s goals in the 2-1 win over Ottawa last night, eight of the team’s 41 goals have come from the blueline – good for 19.5 percent and on pace for 46.  Last year, Hurricanes defensemen only scored 20 goals, which amounted to only eight percent of the team’s total.

More offense from the back end was the plan when Jim Rutherford began to reshape the defense last season with the acquisition of Corvo and the addition of Joni Pitkanen in the offseason, and so far it seems to be working very well.

“I think it’s just a change in the personnel,” said coach Peter Laviolette after this morning’s practice.  “It’s a change in the makeup and fitting into the way we play here.”

Even though he’s been with the team for a while as the seventh defenseman, Dennis Seidenberg (two goals, eight points) could probably be included in the “personnel change” discussion with his vastly increased role this year.

But the team has also been benefiting from the contributions of players like Niclas Wallin (one goal, seven points) and Tim Gleason (six points).  Even Anton Babchuk and Josef Melichar have been getting involved lately, with two assists apiece in their last three games.

With two of the more offensive guys in Pitkanen and Frank Kaberle missing time due to injury, it’s the traditionally more defensive players that have provided the team with a boost.

“It’s something that I’ve always stressed,” said Laviolette, who hasn’t been asking for his defense to get involved any more than he usually does.  “These are skilled guys, and they can find the back of the net.”

Notes from Saturday:

  • Laviolette has been deflecting praise for becoming the winningest American-born coach in history last night ("It's nice," is about all he said this morning), but it really it quite an accomplishment.

    I think it's fitting that it came at a time when he's doing one of his better coaching jobs, guiding an injury-riddled team to an 8-4-2 start and first place in the division.  He's had to deal with more challenges in that regard than the average NHL coach, which makes the accomplishment all the more remarkable.
  • Matt Cullen practiced today, but Laviolette said he wasn't sure about his status for tomorrow's game against Atlanta.  Joni Pitkanen and Brandon Sutter practiced in non-contact jerseys, while Frank Kaberle skated on his own beforehand.  No sign of Patrick Eaves, who continues to deal with an illness.
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