Canes try to revive ailing power play

They’ve converted 3 of 26 power-play chances in 5 games

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 31, 2013 

  • Next game Senators at Canes 7 p.m. Friday TV: FSCR

— The figure is there for all to see, and it’s hard to overlook.

The Carolina Hurricanes’ renovated locker room at PNC Arena now includes updated special teams standings of NHL Eastern Conference teams. At the bottom of the “Power Play” column is “Carolina,” printed in red.

The Canes have converted just three of 26 power-play chances in the first five games, or 11.5 percent.

They dropped to last in the East after an 0-for-6 showing Monday in the 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins, who lead the NHL in penalty killing and scored a shorthanded goal in the first period to take the lead.

Canes coach Kirk Muller promised changes and changes were made in practice Wednesday. No longer was there a first power-play unit of Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner and defenseman Joni Pitkanen.

Instead, Muller had Eric Staal, Semin, Jussi Jokinen and Jiri Tlusty working with Pitkanen.

The second power-play unit had Skinner and Jordan Staal with Chad LaRose and defensemen Jamie McBain and Bobby Sanguinetti. Defenseman Joe Corvo also was being used at a point.

“We kind of went back to what worked last year with the two groups,” Muller said. “I think the other way, we had a unit that was tired sometimes from coming off a shift.

“This way we’re a little more balanced. We can run two units and whichever one is the fresher one, you can have the option. That worked last year.”

Eric Staal centers a line with Semin and Tlusty, and the three have found some chemistry together that could enhance the power play. Skinner and Jordan Staal have been paired on a line.

“Being able to go out there as a line, I think, is more in the flow of the game, and you’re not pulling guys from other lines,” Eric Staal said.

They will pull in Jokinen, who has centered the third line. Jokinen plays well with Pitkanen, a fellow Finn, and that might smooth out some problems in breakouts and in setting up more quickly in the offensive zone.

“We can attack and even score off the rush,” Eric Staal said. “The bottom line is we just have to get sharper and move pucks a bit quicker than we have. And when we get shooting lanes we’ve got to shoot the puck.

“You look at goals around the league. It’s second chances, rebounds. It’s not a lot of tic-tac-toe plays. It’s more crash the net.”

Jokinen, who played games in Finland during the NHL lockout, does not have a point in the Canes’ first five games.

Muller believes being on the first power-play unit can generate offensive production from the veteran forward, and Jokinen, to his credit, doesn’t disagree.

“Obviously we need for me, personally, and our line to produce for us to be successful,” Jokinen said. “Hopefully I will get a little more power-play time, get some goals there and jump-start my season.”

Power-play work was part of a long practice Wednesday that Muller called productive. His message: More shots, less playmaking.

“You’ve always got to have that shoot-first mentality, which I think we’ve been lacking so far,” McBain said. “We’ve tried to make pretty plays and we’ve got to understand that once you establish the shot, those plays open up.”

Forward LaRose, who sat out Tuesday’s practice after an allergic reaction, returned Wednesday. So did defenseman Justin Faulk, who is recovering from an upper-body injury.

Muller said Faulk might play Friday against the Ottawa Senators if he gets contact work Thursday in practice.

Faulk, injured Friday against the Buffalo Sabres, missed the Bruins game and is used on the power play.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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