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Tweetmail No. 167: Hanifin, Masks & Pranks

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

Hello and welcome to Tweetmail, presented by our friends at Tijuana Flats! Wear your Canes gear to participating Raleigh locations on Wednesdays throughout the season and receive 50% off any entrée.

Tweetmail is a weekly feature on 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 @HogshireForrest: Noah Hanifin seems to be hitting his stride this season. His talent and abilities were evident last year but it seems as though his confidence has gone up tremendously. What have you liked from Hanifin this season that you feel he has improved on from his rookie year?

I touched on this briefly in Tuesday night's recap from Columbus: Noah Hanifin has quietly put together a pretty good season thus far, especially from an offensive production standpoint. And, at a time when Justin Faulk, who has scored 15 or more goals in each of the last three seasons, only has a goal and six assists through 23 games this season, getting contributions elsewhere from the blue line is important.

Hanifin leads team defensemen in scoring with 13 points, and his fourth goal of the season tied the game at one on Tuesday night in Columbus. Not only was Hanifin's finish on the 2-on-1 rush solid, but he also made a good read to jump into the play as Jeff Skinner deftly danced with the puck in the defensive zone. Here's what head coach Bill Peters had to say about the third-year defenseman: "He's done a good job. He's doing what he needs to do as a young guy, getting better and better every year. That's encouraging to see."

When the Hurricanes selected Hanifin fifth overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, it was known how gifted of a skater he was, and we've seen that on display in his first three years. Hanifin moves the puck up the ice with ease and can whip the puck around from the point on the power play. Assistant coach Steve Smith has worked closely with the now 20-year-old on the finer points of positioning and play in the defensive zone, too, as Hanifin continues to develop a more well-rounded game.

It's no surprise to see this kind of emergence from Hanifin when Canes head amateur scout Tony MacDonald had this to say in the summer of 2015: "There's not much not to like about Noah Hanifin. He should play in the NHL for a long, long time."

Tweet from @HMof2: Is there a coach watching games from "up top" these days? (the "eye in the sky") Related: Wondering if Rask had a coach watching with him when he was scratched.

Goaltending coach Mike Bales is the only member of the Hurricanes' coaching staff who watches games from the vantage point of press row. Down in bowels of the building, video coaches Chris Huffine and LJ Scarpace are keeping a close eye on everything via the many camera angles and feeds to which they have access.

During his time as a healthy scratch, I imagine Victor Rask spent time absorbing game footage to serve as a simple reminder of what he must do in order to be a successful centerman on this team. And, perhaps more than anything, the two games spent out of uniform allowed him to clear his head and refocus his efforts.

"I knew I could play better than I did," he said this past weekend. "You just try to take a little time off and reboot."

Tweet from @Helmsey_41: why does darling change from white mask and black mask on his helmets#tweetmail

I believe it's as simple as this: Scott Darling wears two masks, one with the Hurricanes' red jerseys and one with the white jerseys. The mask he wears with red, typically at home, has a black cage, while the one he wears with white, typically on the road, has a white cage.

Tweet from @Chris_Miracle91: Are there any Charlotte Checkers close to earning a call up?

Phil Di Giuseppe was one I had pegged for an early-season call-up, and that happened two-and-a-half weeks ago. The Canes are currently healthy (save Lee Stempniak's upper-body injury), so they're carrying an extra forward and an extra defenseman. As far as who could be next, I'd be intrigued to see what Lucas Wallmark or Valentin Zykov could do with an extended recall. Despite both currently being out of the lineup with injuries, Wallmark tallied 15 points (4g, 11a) through his first 12 games and Zykov's 10 goals ranks him tied for third in the AHL.

Also, does Jason Shaya count? Not only did he play the role of emergency back-up goaltender during the Checkers game this past Sunday, but he'll also be making his NHL debut when he fills in for John Forslund with the play-by-play call on FOX Sports Carolinas in Toronto on Dec. 19.

Tweet from @Section_328: most amazing road trip prank you���ve seen pulled during your Canes career (names redacted of course) #Tweetmail

I'm sure there are plenty I've never even heard about, especially in the locker room when we're not around. But I can relay one story because, well, it happened to me.

If I remember correctly, it was March of 2015, and we were en route to Minnesota from Pittsburgh. I'm already apt to fall asleep on the plane - seriously, sometimes I'm out before we're even in the air - and with it being late at night after a game, I was snoozing hard. Later on in the flight, my seatmate Chuck Kaiton and I each woke up covered in a blanket of napkins.

(And yes, the perpetrator was identified. His name has been redacted.)


Join me next week for more questions and more answers!

If you have a question you'd like answered or you'd like to hear more prank stories, you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes or drop an email here.

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