Carolina Hurricanes

Hurricanes’ Lindholm tries to stay positive

What’s up with Elias Lindholm?

While the Carolina Hurricanes have several questions begging to be answered, that’s one near the top of the list.

After scoring a career-high 17 goals last season, the Swedish forward has one goal in the Canes’ first 16 games. It came in the third game, against the Florida Panthers. Nice shot, nice goal. But it’s also his only point of the season.

“You always want to take a step every year and it’s been pretty brutal for me this year,” Lindholm said this week. “I’ve tried to stay positive on the bench. To get (mad), that doesn’t help. It’s tough sometimes to just stay positive but I’m working on it.”

Lindholm isn’t the only player struggling to score or put up offensive numbers for the Canes (6-9-1). But a lot has been expected from the fifth overall pick of the 2013 NHL draft and while he has had games where he’s noticeable, skating well and playing with an edge, he has had others where he’s almost invisible.

In the Canes’ 3-2 overtime loss Thursday to the Minnesota Wild, Lindholm had a little more than 20 minutes of ice time. He had two shots, one hit and lost all four of his faceoffs. He had a minus-2 rating, meaning he was on the ice for two of the Wild’s three goals, which all came at even-strength as Jason Zucker scored the overtime winner.

Canes coach Bill Peters on Friday said he believed Lindholm was “really close to coming out” of his slump, saying despite the numbers Lindholm has played solid games this week against the New York Rangers – in a 3-0 Canes loss – and then against the Wild.

“He’s hard on pucks, he’s physical, he’s hanging on to more pucks,” Peters said. “He looks like he’s more confident. I think he’s a guy who’s ready to break through.”

Lindholm concedes his pointless streak, now at 13 games, has been wearing on him.

“It’s been going on for awhile now,” he said. “I mean, what can you do? Keep shooting and try to create (offense). But the more you miss the harder you hold the stick.”

Lindholm, who turns 21 next month, now has played 155 NHL games. A year ago, he had a career-best 39 points, earning a two-year, $5.4 million contract extension.

“But my game hasn’t been nearly as good as it should have been,” Lindholm said. “I feel like I’m getting there, getting close to getting another goal. I have to keep working hard and the chances will come.”

Lindholm began Thursday’s game on the Canes’ top line with Eric Staal on the left wing and Victor Rask at center. In Friday’s practice, he was on Jordan Staal’s line opposite Eric Staal.

Lindholm, who played in the Swedish Elite League before being drafted, said he doesn’t feel the pressure to perform that often comes with being a high draft pick.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s been a couple of years now since I was drafted. I’m just trying to build from last year.

“What can I do? Just look forward to the next game and do as good as I can.”

For Lindholm and the Canes, the next game is Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s the second in a five-game home stand at PNC Arena that Peters has called hugely important.

Rask and Lindholm played together for Sweden in the 2015 IIHF World Championship this past spring in the Czech Republic and often were on the same line. Rask said he expects Lindholm’s perplexing offensive drought to soon end.

“Oh yeah, it’s just a matter of time,” Rask said. “When he starts getting those points again, he’ll get more and more and more. He’s a really good player but he just needs to get that bounce.”

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip

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