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Friday Notes

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes

Tough game last night.  If you let them, Pittsburgh definitely has the type of forwards that can change things in a hurry, and they certainly did that in the third period.  Lots of thoughts and observations from the disappointing loss, so let’s get right to it:

Paul Branecky
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Brandon Sutter – great to see the rookie get rewarded for his strong start with his first NHL goal.  As has been mentioned here before, I expected Sutter’s contributions this early in his career to be mostly on the defensive end of the ice, but he’s really done well to create scoring chances for himself, even though he only has two points to show for it so far.  Now that he’s got one past the goaltender, perhaps more of those chances will result in goals.

Sergei Samsonov – speaking of converting chances, that’s something the Russian winger has struggled with so far.  He’s still looking for his first point, but was becoming active offensively even before last night’s showing, where his line with Eric Staal and Patrick Eaves was easily the Canes’ best.  The important thing now is for him to keep at it and not get frustrated.  As long as the chances are there, the points will come – it’s when the chances aren’t there that you need to be worried.

The power play – I was anxious to see if the long break between games and the dedicated practice did anything to improve the power play, but unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to see much of it with only one opportunity.

Obviously that opportunity wasn't too great, with the Canes only registering one shot from Ryan Bayda and not mounting sustained pressure in the Pittsburgh zone for very long.  In fact, it seemed to me like the Penguins actually gained a little momentum during that span – Sidney Crosby’s “keep away” sequence near the end seemed to energize the crowd and his team a little bit.  Next thing you know, the Penguins drew a penalty, evened the game on a power play of their own, and the rest was history.

It’s just an 0-1, but imagine how different the game could have been otherwise.

Goaltending – Even before Pittsburgh’s third-period explosion, last night’s game had a similar feel to the Anaheim contest where the Canes were on their heels a bit and Michael Leighton made key saves to keep them in it.  I think the plan all along has been to use Cam Ward tomorrow night in New York, and if that happens, I’m extremely interested to see how he reacts to getting back in there after watching Leighton start the last two.

Tuomo Ruutu – From everything I’ve heard, I think he has a very good chance to play against the Islanders on Saturday – everyone seemed pleased with his pre-practice workouts earlier this week, so I expect him to give it a shot with the rest of the team at full practice today. 

After starting the season extremely well offensively, the Canes only have three non-empty-net goals in their last two games, so they could use a bit of an offensive spark

The fight line? – The Canes only had 11 forwards in the lineup (one short of the conventional 12), so that left Wade Brookbank and Dan LaCouture without a third linemate.  As a result, they were used sparingly, logging only 1:47 and 2:07 of ice time, respectively.  Of course, two of their four shifts ended in a fight, which shortened those numbers a bit.  If and when other forwards start to get healthy, there probably won’t be room for both of them, and it’s hard to make an impact on four shifts otherwise.  A competition, perhaps?

Seven defensemenJosef Melichar and Anton Babchuk didn’t see a ton of action last night, but I’m guessing Babchuk would have been out there more if there were more power plays.  That immediately reminds me of the way the team used Andrew Hutchinson as a power play specialist a few years ago whenever there were seven defensemen in the lineup – maybe we’ll see that type of thing again in similar situations this year.

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