Dalpe back up with the Hurricanes

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 20, 2012 

— If Zac Dalpe was still with the Charlotte Checkers, he would have been on a bumpy flight Wednesday to snowbound Abbotsford, British Columbia, and then needed the glow of a light stick to find his room when the power failed at the team hotel.

Ah, life in the American Hockey League.

Instead, Dalpe is living the good life, again. Recalled Wednesday by the Carolina Hurricanes, the forward will play tonight against the Washington Capitals at the RBC Center and will be the right wing on Jeff Skinner's line opposite Jussi Jokinen.

In the Canes' practice Thursday, Dalpe also was used on the first power-play unit along with Skinner and Eric Staal.

"It's a good opportunity, and I've just got to take advantage of it and not much too much pressure on myself," Dalpe said Thursday. "Just run with it."

One thing about Canes coach Kirk Muller: he has shown that he will give AHL callups the opportunity, given their capabilities and where they best fit in the lineup. Recently, forward Jerome Samson was brought up from the Checkers and averaged more than 13 minutes of ice time in three games before suffering an upper-body injury.

Dalpe, 22, had more than 19 minutes in his last game with the Canes on Jan. 3 against the New York Islanders. Reassigned to the Checkers after that game, he responded with five goals and three assists in seven games for the Checkers.

"I think I'm playing my best hockey right now," Dalpe said. "I want to bring that same sort of confidence and comfort on the ice, and make plays."

Bouncing around

Dalpe began the season with the Hurricanes and played five games before a leg injury Oct. 14 against the Buffalo Sabres. Sent back to the Checkers, he was recalled by Carolina in early November for five games and then again just after Christmas.

By his second recall, Muller had been hired as the Canes coach to replace Paul Maurice. Used primarily on the fourth line by Maurice, Dalpe averaged almost 15 minutes in ice time in four games under Muller.

"I think he likes guys who compete, and I'm a guy who likes to work hard," Dalpe said. "He doesn't like guys taking shifts off. You can see that here in practice. He pushes the pace and wants everything uptempo and I really like that."

Defense first

Playing on Staal's line, Dalpe had a goal and assist as the Canes rallied to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in overtime on Dec. 29. Now, he's with Skinner. And Muller said Thursday he wanted Dalpe's righthanded shot in the slot on the power play.

"He understands that the stuff that he brings is his speed and creating stuff, and he's playing with players that he should be getting scoring chances," Muller said.

But Muller said Dalpe must think defense first. Dalpe, he said, needs to be as active without the puck as with it, and maintain his high-tempo play all over the ice.

"Playing those high minutes, my pace was off a little bit because I wasn't used to playing the high (number) of minutes," Dalpe said of his last stint with the Canes. "When I down (to Charlotte), the message was to just keep pushing the pace and keep playing the puck.

"I thought these games in the AHL I was doing that. I'll just look to keep doing that."

And hopefully keep living the good life in the NHL.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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