There’s no doubt he’s been effective for the last month and a half, but with his three-point performance on New Year’s Eve, now is as good a time as any to officially say it.
Sergei Samsonov is back.
Including his first goal of the season on November 18 against Montreal, the Russian winger has 16 points in his last 20 games, which is very close to the 32 in 28 pace from the end of last season after the Hurricanes claimed him on waivers from Chicago.
With such a prolonged period of consistent offensive production and a firm spot on the left side of the team’s first line with Eric Staal and Tuomo Ruutu, his struggles from earlier in this season seem to be fully behind him.
“I was fortunate enough where coaches kept me on the ice and kept putting me in key situations,” said Samsonov. “Many teams would just cut your ice time, and that would be the end of it where it’s even harder to get out. I appreciate the patience when they stuck with me, and I think that’s the biggest thing when you’re struggling to still get those minutes where you eventually start to contribute. Being in the right situation helps.”
While every player goes through slumps at some point in the season, Samsonov feels his was harder to get out of because it happened at the start of the season before he had established the confidence that comes with a stretch of good play.
“Absolutely,” he said. “You start guessing everything. It’s not something that I’m doing (now), and hopefully that’s behind me. I went through it and I know how to deal with it, but it’s not the easiest thing to deal with.”
As for what he’s doing differently on the ice now as opposed to when he went pointless in the season’s first 10 games, coach Paul Maurice said that moving his feet at all times has made him more effective.
“The only thing I ever said to him was for me coaching against him, I think his game is based on his feet, not his hands,” said Maurice. “He’s a very quick, agile skater, and in the games that we always had a hard time playing against him, he was moving. Whether he had the puck or not, he was skating and he was darting.
“When I think he’s playing his best, it will look like he’s really handling the puck well and making good decisions, but I think that’s all based on his feet. When he’s moving and getting himself into holes, he’s buying himself time to do all those things.
Samsonov, who checks in at 5-foot-8 and 188 pounds, agreed.
“I have to skate to be a threat,” he said. “I don’t think I can just go and outmuscle guys that are 6’5” and 240. My game is quickness and trying to skate around you.”
Now, with his shiftiness, Ruutu’s physical play and Staal also nearing the top of his game, the Hurricanes’ first unit should have no problem leading the way for the rest of the season.
“I think we’re getting to know each other a little bit better,” Samsonov said. “We’ve been playing together now for a while and we understand each other pretty well. In practices and games, it seems like we have some good chemistry going.”