The Canes had their first home practice in about a week today, and the focus was on an area that has proven to be a bit problematic since then – the power play.
After starting the season with four goals on their first 13 chances, the Canes are in an 0-13 slump dating back to the loss against Detroit on October 13. I’m not sure what to make of the excessive appearance of the unlucky number 13 in that stat, which I didn’t realize until I typed it just now.
The two power play units had a bit of a different look today, with Joe Corvo and Pitkanen no longer working on the same unit. Corvo was paired with Dennis Seidenberg on Eric Staal’s unit with Sergei Samsonov and Ryan Bayda, while Pitkanen worked with Anton Babchuk on Rod Brind’Amour’s group with Ray Whitney and Matt Cullen.
“It’s just been sloppy,” said coach Peter Laviolette of the power play. “It’s been sloppy on the breakout, it’s been a bit sloppy and predictable. We’ve got the right guys out there – they’re guys that have proven they can excel with the power play. We add new pieces out there too and just the chemistry and maybe just finding out what we like.”
The foot injury to Frantisek Kaberle has opened the door for Babchuk, who dressed for the first time last Sunday after being a healthy scratch for the team’s first four games.
Known for his hard shot, Babchuk, who scored 26 points in 57 Russian games last season, saw a little time on the power play against Anaheim
and figures to do so again in the near future.
“He’s a skilled guy,” said Laviolette. “He put up a lot of points last year in the Russian league. We used him on the power play when he was here a couple of years ago. It’s an opportunity, and he looked real good out there.”
As much of an opportunity the current situation presents for Babchuk to prove he belongs in the regular lineup, Bayda will also be looking to deliver in an increased role that he earned by scoring three points in the Canes’ first five games. He’s only seen bits and pieces of power play time thus far, but is in line for more on Thursday if Ruutu can’t play.
Speaking of Ruutu, he skated on his own prior to today’s practice, but didn’t participate in the full team session. We’ll see if he’s able to get more involved tomorrow. If he can’t go on Thursday and no roster moves are made, the Canes will be forced to dress seven defenseman, opening the door for Josef Melichar to make his Hurricanes debut.