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Depth on Display

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
In 2012-13, the Carolina Hurricanes had success because of the first line of Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty. Through two games in this young season, they’re seeing success in the absence of top line contribution.

Michael Smith
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And that’s okay. In fact, it highlights an attribute of the club that was scarcely seen last season: scoring depth.

“I don’t think anyone is going to disagree that their line … is not up to par right now, timing-wise,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “We look at the positive side of it in that we have nice depth right now with the other lines.”

In the Canes first two games, in which they’ve scored four goals, Radek Dvorak has netted two, Nathan Gerbe figured in on the power play and Jay Harrison pitched in from the blue line.

“No question. It’s very, very encouraging,” said Eric Staal when asked about the depth in the Canes’ lineup. “That’s a key piece to a great team: having balance in your lineup.”

Though the first line hasn’t appeared on the scoresheet, it’s not for a lack of trying. In two games, the trio has combined for eight shots. Semin had a screeching wrister bounce off the post against Detroit, and on Sunday afternoon, Staal put one just wide of the outstretched Steve Mason on the power play.

If either of those find the twine, maybe this article doesn’t get published.

“Once that thing hits the back of the net, you get your confidence back. It goes a long way,” Staal said. “We’re going to get our chances and our opportunities. We’ve got 80 games left. I’m not worried about it.”

It’s not that the chemistry isn’t still there between the three; that much was evident as early as the first training camp practice. It’s just that the timing is a bit off, perhaps a factor of various injuries – Staal’s knee malady in the summer and Semin’s recent upper-body concern.

“We’re just a hair off. Last night we were closer than the night before, and this week, hopefully sooner than later, it will get even closer to getting back to the scoresheet,” Staal said. “I think we’ll continue to work and push harder and push each other to get better.”

Goals and points will come from the first line. And when they do, they might come in bunches.

Until then, the depth of the team is on full display, and that’s not a bad thing.

“We’re not going to score every night, and they’re not going to score every night,” Staal said. “When you balance it out and everyone contributes in different ways, it’s going to result in wins and points.”

Ruutu Nearing Return?

Speaking of scoring depth, Tuomo Ruutu (lower body) skated with the Hurricanes in practice for the first time in two weeks. The forward, who is currently on injured reserve, will travel with the team on its two-game road trip.

So where does he fit in when he’s ready to return? Do you disrupt the second and third lines?

“You really don’t want to mix up chemistry. Nash’s line, so far, seems to have good chemistry and is playing well and producing. They’ve been pretty strong, and Jordan’s line has had great chemistry,” Muller said. “Guys that have missed time, it’s tough to get in and eat a lot of minutes, so if he does get in, maybe he starts on the fourth line and builds himself up.”

In other injury news, Elias Lindholm, who left Sunday’s game in the third period and returned to the bench, practiced with the team on Monday and is possible for Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh. Tim Gleason (concussion) remains out indefinitely.

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