Nail Yakupov has struggled to find an offensive rhythm this season. Aside from a stretch of five games, in mid-November, in which Yakupov scored six points in six games, the 20-year-old skilled winger has not consistently contributed to the stat sheet. He has five goals and six assists in 30 games this season. However, last night Yakupov might have had a game he can build off of.
Against Carolina last night, the forward finished the game with two points, a goal and an assist. It was the first time all season that Yakupov has scored an even-strength goal. His previous four were all on the power play. It was also only his second time all season to tally a multi-point night. His previous two-point night was on November 19, against Columbus, amidst that aforementioned six-game stretch.
Yakupov was pleased with the results last night, not only for himself but also for the team who managed to get the win.
"I felt good actually, and I think everyone felt pretty good after the game when you get two points," he said.
Yakupov has recently been placed on a line with Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall. Head Coach Dallas Eakins told the media that it is his hope that Hall can get Yakupov going offensively. It seemed, at least for the start of last night's game, that Yakupov was definitely benefiting from his linemates.
His goal was courtesy of a nice feed by Hall from the boards in the first period.
"It's good for me. I had pretty good help and it was a good play by (Hall) and everybody who was on the ice. Hall made a good pass and I just better shoot that thing and put it in."
Yakupov has a lot of respect for his fellow former first overall pick, as well as Gagner.
"(Hall's) a great player, has great speed and I think I've got to use my speed too when we skate together, kind of swing around. We get more chances on the rush and I think it's pretty easy to play with that speed. We have a good centre, Gagner moves the puck pretty well when we play in the middle. He sees the ice and gives us a good chance and good speed…"
Yakupov moved well last night and had a couple of other chances that could have easily turned into goal opportunities. One of the bigger chances was when Yakupov ringed a shot off of the inside of a post and out. From now on the forward knows just what to do from that area of the ice next time; just shoot it.
"I just hit the post. It was a good pass again by Hall and Gagner. I've just got to use my shot. It you're around the net, like a few metres from the net, you've got to shoot it… I've got to shoot it and I'll try next time to score from there again."