Canes lacking juice

Power play is 19th in NHL

Staff writerDecember 7, 2010 

— Any way you care to crunch the numbers, they don't look very good.

Since scoring on all three power plays in a 3-0 win over the Boston Bruins the day after Thanksgiving, the Carolina Hurricanes have had 13 power plays in their past four games. They have put just 11 shots on goal, and none has gone in the net.

The Canes have scored on 15.8 percent of their power plays this season. That's 19th-best in the NHL. Carolina has failed to score a power-play goal in 15 of its 26 games and six of the past eight.

"We have to find a way to score at least one power-play goal a game," forward Jussi Jokinen said Monday. "That can give us a spark and win some games for us."

The recent power-play slide -- Carolina is 4-for-25 in its past eight games -- is an area that must be addressed, certainly for a team that has an 11-12-3 record and was 10th in the Eastern Conference on Monday morning.

"The one recurring theme is that the teams we've played after Boston are very aggressive on their penalty kill," Canes coach Paul Maurice said Monday. "We moved the puck slowly and did not have the setup time we had in Boston to create some things.

"There is just a slowness in how we're executing what we're trying to do. We need to get that speed up a little bit."

The Canes were 0-for-4 on the power play Saturday in a 5-2 road loss to the Nashville Predators, who are seventh in the NHL on the penalty kill. Maurice dryly noted the power-play units did snap the puck around smartly early in the game were "high-fiving each other" but not putting shots on net.

"Most goals are not going to be that bang-bang-bang, backdoor and easy tap-in," defenseman Jamie McBain said. "That's something we must understand.

"If that play is there, we've got the guys on the power play capable of making it. But we've got to have that shoot-first mentality. That's how you get out of funks -just get as many pucks to the net as you can."

Maurice said the two ways to combat an aggressive penalty-kill team is to move the puck around the outside and make the other team skate, or put it on net early in the power play and have the penalty killers collapse defensively.

"But when you lose that confidence in the power play, the first thing you notice is that everything is a half-step slow," he said.

Trailing the Predators 4-2 in the third period, the Canes had two power plays. Eric Staal came close to scoring, but only close. A goal on either power play could have made things interesting.

Jokinen said the Canes at times have passed up decent shots looking for something better.

"When things are rolling and you have good confidence, you have the confidence to make a play," he said. "When the power play is dropping off, you don't need to make the extra pass. Keep it simple and take the quality shots, get guys going to the net and try to find those rebounds."

Maurice said he's unlikely to make personnel changes in the power-play units, saying the options are limited.

"There's not a lot of guys off the units who are power-play guys at this point in their career," he said. "Maybe we'll just mix them around, getting different looks. But the four guys who are on the blue line are our power-play guys."

Joe Corvo and Joni Pitkanen are the defensemen on one power-play unit, and McBain and Ian White also are used on the points.

"Regardless of who's out there, we've got to move the puck quicker, move our feet quicker and make the decision earlier to shoot the puck when you have a decent angle," Maurice said. "We've been waiting for something better and we'll have to start with something less and build from there."

Rookie Jeff Skinner has been used on the half-wall on one power-play unit, and Maurice said Skinner probably would stay there.

"The question is do you take your best half-wall guy off and put him in the middle of the ice?" he said. "Most of the good plays have come from the half-wall."

The Canes do not play until Friday's road game against the Dallas Stars, and they should put in some power-play time in practice. A number of nicks and bruises kept all but eight skaters off the ice Monday at the RecZone, but Maurice said he's hoping everyone will be back today.

In short, there's a lot of work to be done.

chip.alexander@newobserver .com or 919-829-8945

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