By all accounts, including his coach’s, Elias Lindholm has done a lot of good things this season for the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Swede has been used on the wing and centered a line. He’s on the power play. He has been active in penalty killing. He has played with an edge to his game.
“He’s hard on pucks, he’s hard to play against, he’s winning faceoffs,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “His game is in good shape. He just needs to get the first one.”
That first goal, that is.
The Canes (4-6-4), who host the San Jose Sharks (9-6-0) on Tuesday, have played 14 games this season, and Lindholm is still after that “first one.” His offensive line: no goals, three assists.
In the Canes’ 5-1 win Saturday over the Washington Capitals, Lindholm assisted on Jordan Staal’s power-play goal in the second period, flashing to the front of the net to tip a shot by Teuvo Teravainen. The puck bounced directly to Staal for an easy score – the kind of bounce Lindholm has not gotten.
Lindholm, who turns 22 on Dec. 2, won all six of his faceoffs in the game, blocked two shots and had a pair of takeaways. But that first goal has been elusive for a player who was a first-round draft pick, taken fifth overall by Carolina in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
“I’m here to produce,” he said. “I should be up there for our team and help us win games. It’s kind of frustrating, and especially now when we’ve lost some games in the beginning. You feel like you haven’t scored, and you feel you could have been the difference in games if I just put one in.”
Lindholm was used at center initially with Teravainen and Sebastian Aho on the wings. He recently was shifted to Victor Rask’s line opposite Jeff Skinner, then played with Derek Ryan and Brock McGinn – forwards called up from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL – against the Caps. At Monday’s practice, he was back with Rask and Skinner.
“It’s only a matter of time,” Skinner said. “He’s got skill, he’s a smart player. He’s played well all season, even when he’s not scoring.”
In a game against the Anaheim Ducks last week, the Canes were on a power play and Lindholm crashing the net, in scoring position, looking to take a pass from Rask. The puck glanced off a stick and hit Lindholm in the mouth. After some quick dental repairs, he soon was back on the ice.
Drafted as a center out of the Swedish Hockey League, Lindholm played in the NHL as a rookie and lined up at right wing much of his first three seasons with the Canes. Setting career highs in goals (17) and points (39) in 2014-15, he was given a contract extension that will pay him $2.5 million this season and $2.9 million in 2017-18.
Lindholm again had 39 points last season, and his goal production dipped to 11. That was a disappointment, for him and the team.
The decision was made by Peters and Canes management to give Lindholm a good look at center this season. Then it was back to the wing.
“I kind of got used to center, then switched … but it doesn’t matter as much,” Lindholm said. “It’s easy to adjust my game and hopefully get going with some more points.”
Lindholm has 29 shots, and the scoring chances, he said, have been there. With the Canes and Ottawa Senators in overtime on Nov. 1, Lindholm had a partial breakaway but didn’t get off a good shot.
“It was kind of like a thing where you haven’t scored in a while, and it’s like you’re thinking too much what to do instead of just reacting,” Lindholm said. “If I had scored two or three goals before that, I probably put one in there.
“As long as the chances are there and the looks are there I’m not worried or stressed about my game. It will come when it comes. I will try to work hard every game and work hard in practice, and it will turn, hopefully soon.”