Boychuk, Lindholm give Canes a spark

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 9, 2014 

Zach Boychuk was once a first-round pick by the Canes and drawing praise for his offensive instincts and potential.

Elias Lindholm is now that guy.

On Thursday, the two had a big hand in the Canes rolling past the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-1 for a fifth straight win. Lindholm had a goal and two assists, and Boychuk a goal and assist as they played the wing on the fourth line with center Brett Sutter.

Lindholm, the fifth overall pick of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, returned Tuesday from the World Junior Championship, where he played for Sweden and won a silver medal. He assisted on Jeff Skinner's power-play goal in the first period and scored on a 5-on-3 power play late in the game while also assisting on Boychuk's even-strength score that gave the Canes a 1-0 lead.

Lindholm, 19, said it took him 19 hours to get back from Sweden and after Wednesday's practice with the Canes said he was feeling the effects of the travel. But he seemed fresh enough Thursday.

"I played all right, I guess," Lindholm said. "I was kind of lucky today. It was nothing special. I played with good players and we had good chemistry out there.

"I tried to keep it simple. When you're playing on the big ice and not playing with men (in the World Junior), it's kind of slowed down. So I kept it simple tonight."

That's Boychuk's approach: keep it simple and play hard. The Canes' first-round pick in 2008, he has spent much of his career in the AHL and much of last season going from team to team -- from the Charlotte Checkers (AHL), to the Canes fo one game, to the Pittsburgh Penguins, to the Nashville Predators and finally back to the Canes after being on waivers three times.

But Boychuk, 24, would like to prove he deserves an NHL roster spot. His goal was his first since scoring for the Preds last season, his assist came on a crisp pass off the rush to set up Pat Dwyer's score and he finished plus-2 for the night.

"It's definitely one of the best games I've played," Boychuk said. "Every line as chipping in with the goals. The depth helps. Hopefully we can keep the momentum into next game.

"It's nice to jump on a team early and contribute as a fourth line. That's what you want to do, create energy any way you can, and it's a bonus if you get a goal."

Boychuk said that has been the message from Canes coach Kirk Muller -- to keep pushing, keep generating that energy. Boychuk, Sutter and Lindholm did just that.

Lindholm played six games for Sweden in the World Junior, finishing with two goals and seven assists. Muller said Wednesday that a decision on putting Lindholm in the lineup Thursday would be made after the morning skate, but he was on the top power-play unit at the skate and at wing on the fourth line.

"This morning I heard (Muller) tell 'Lindy' to be ready and keep up with these guys because we've been playing well," Boychuk said, smiling. "It was good to see that he was keeping up and we were actually trying to keep up with him.

"He was awesome tonight. He was in on the forecheck, first guy, and making plays. That's what you need out of high draft pick like that. He's playing with a lot of confidence right now."

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