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Tweetmail No. 119: Changes, Growth & Finish

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

CALGARY - Hello and welcome to a weekly feature on CarolinaHurricanes.com in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.

Let's get to it.

Tweet from @ethanclark04: @MSmithCanes what changes to do you see that the Canes need to make to turn this road trip into a successful one #tweetmail

Two wins in Calgary and Philadelphia would do wonders for the Hurricanes before they very briefly head back to Raleigh to spend a couple of short nights in their beds. Imagine, a 2-1-2 record and six of a possible 10 points on the road in the first five games? That's not bad, and it sets the team up to finish the month heading in the right direction.

The Hurricanes should probably be 2-1-0 right now, at the very least 1-1-1, but it's not all bad despite the team being winless in its first three games. Though the Canes would have liked to bury some of their better looks in Edmonton on Tuesday night, the offense has still been a bright spot with nine goals over a three-game span. The line of Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask and Lee Stempniak has some serious chemistry right now, and the three players have combined for 12 points (6g, 6a). There's also some promise on the power play with skilled offensive minds like Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho whipping the puck around. Not to mention, the penalty kill is a near-perfect 9-for-10 to start the season.

Ultimately, though, the wins are what matter, and if the Hurricanes can finish this stretch of the trip off with four points, I think they'll be just fine.

Tweet from @notthatalexjone: @MSmithCanes What will Lindholm have to do to turn his game around? Did the Canes overestimate him in '13? #Tweetmail

I think what you've seen with Elias Lindholm is the maturation process of a still very young pro.

In a perfect world, Lindholm probably would not have started playing in the NHL when he did. After being drafted in the summer of 2013, he suffered a shoulder injury in development camp. It was minor, but it hindered him in his path from the draft to opening night; he had to play catch-up in a sense and probably wasn't physically ready to compete in the NHL at 18.

At still just 21 years of age, Lindholm is entering his fourth career NHL season. He's tallied 39 points in each of the last two seasons, with a career-high 17 goals in 2014-15 and a career-high 28 assists in 2015-16. I think 50 points - 20 goals and 30 assists, perhaps - is a completely reasonable benchmark for Lindholm as he looks to take the next step in his career.

I think it's time for that next step to happen, and part of that next step has already been taken in moving him into his natural center position. He's mainly competed as a right winger during his first three seasons in the league, but now is his opportunity to center to very skilled wingers in Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho. We saw the potential of that line in the preseason in the way they moved the puck up the ice and created scoring chances with their hockey sense and creativity. So far that hasn't quite been there in the regular season, but that will come in time.

From his growth as an 18-year-old rookie in the NHL to where he is now, I think Lindholm is poised for his best season in a Hurricanes sweater.

Tweet from @kmellin1: @MSmithCanes have the coaches done anything to address the lack of "finish" in our game at the moment?

As head coach Bill Peters said after the Canes' overtime loss in Vancouver, the team has to "identify the problem and be solution-based," and there's no doubt they've dissected the points where things went awry in the first two games.

Then at some point, it has to be demonstrated in a game situation. On some level, losing a three-goal lead in Vancouver was probably somewhat of a mental hangover from the same thing happening in Winnipeg just three nights prior. Once the Canes overcome that cerebral hurdle, the first two games will be but a distant memory.

As Peters said in Edmonton: "This is a very intelligent, competitive group, and they'll get better as we go."

Tweet from @chloeatbest: @MSmithCanes Did you enjoy the wet weather of the team's one trip to Vancouver this season?

Vancouver is one of my favorite cities to visit each season. Rain and all, it's a beautiful city, and the eats are good, too. I hit Meat & Bread not once but twice, and who else but Eddie Lack bought the team tacos after practice from a little hole-in-the-wall joint called Gringo. The brisket was delicious.

 Already looking forward to the next Vancouver visit!

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Join me next week for more questions and more answers!

If you have a question you'd like answered or you'd be down to open a Raleigh location of Meat & Bread, you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes or drop an email here.

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