Stillman: Power play can 'turn quickly'

Staff writerMarch 14, 2011 

— Canes forward Cory Stillman has been in the NHL a long time and has been around power plays that run hot and cold.

The Canes' power play isn't cold; it's downright frigid. Carolina is 0-for-21 in the past five games after going 0-for-9 Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and has gone 3-for-61 the past 15 games.

What's been lacking the most: confidence or execution? Stillman has an idea.

"Better execution and better confidence," he said. "Power plays go through cycles where you can't get in their zone, where you're always coming back to your zone. Or you're in their zone but not getting shots. Or you have opportunities but you're hitting the goalie or missing the net."

That pretty much sums up what's been happening to the Canes. But how to fix it?

"It's a matter of getting one and sticking with the system, sticking with the program," Stillman said. "Once you get one it's going to open. And soon as you do that, you have the confidence and you'll probably see us score two or three in a game.

"It can turn very quickly. It takes each group out there to score a power play goal, and when it turns it can turn quickly."

The Canes spent a big part of today's practice working on the power play. There were three units, including a third one with Drayson Bowman, Brandon Sutter and Chad LaRose. The first forward group had Eric Staal with Stillman and Tuomo Ruutu, and the second was Jussi Jokinen, Jeff Skinner and Erik Cole.

Manning the points were defensemen Joni Pitkanen and Joe Corvo, and Tim Gleason and Jay Harrison.

"The people we have are capable of doing it," Canes coach Paul Maurice said today. "I don't think we're at a point right now where we're going to be snapping it around, a six-pass goal. I think it's going to have to be simple and it's going to have to be direct. And then we've got to finish around the net.

"I think it's one gets in, then the pressure comes off and I think the hands get a little loose around the net."

The Canes do need to loosen up — or else. With 13 games remaining in the regular season, Carolina now is four points out of playoff position, trailing both the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers by four.

The Canes play in Buffalo tomorrow night. They then come back Wednesday to host the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are two points behind Carolina.

Maurice called those two games "critical pieces to our season, there's no question about that."

Maurice said defenseman Jamie McBain would undergo an MRI today to determine the extent of his upper-body injury. McBain, injured Friday against Washington, has been ruled out indefinitely.

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com

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