Teuvo Teravainen was one of the last skaters off the ice Saturday as the Carolina Hurricanes went through their morning skate.
The Finnish winger got off shot after shot, working on his release, staying focused, as if mentally preparing himself for what he would do later Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres.
Teravainen had not scored a goal in 15 straight games. The points were few and Canes coach Bill Peters noted after the skate, “He’s a skill guy who needs to generate offense. That’s what he’s paid to do.”
Teravainen, in the starting lineup, had the first shot on goal against the Sabres, 29 seconds into the game. The Canes’ Sebastian Aho scored four seconds later and the Hurricanes were on their way to a 4-2 victory at PNC Arena in their final game before the Christmas break.
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While Teravainen did not score, he tied his career high with three assists in his fourth three-point game of the season. And Peters was quick to point out that Teravainen had four shots on goal — more than his last three games, combined — and had three other attempts that missed the net.
“It makes all the difference in the world,” Peters said of Teravainen looking to shoot the puck.
A month ago, Teravainen notched his first career hat trick against the Dallas Stars and had a torrid four-game streak in which he had five goals and five assists, with 16 shots. The NHL, in turn, named him its first star of the week, always a nice honor.
And then, just like that, his offense dried up. In the next 15 games, Teravainen had six assists and 25 shots total, with a minus-11 plus/minus rating in that span that dropped him to minus-4 for the season before his plus-2 game Saturday.
“It’s been a little tough lately,” Teravainen said after Saturday’s game. “There’s always some tough stretches, some ups and downs. I haven’t played that well lately but I’m just trying to keep focusing and get my game back. Just work hard. Just play my game and it will come.”
Peters had talked in the past week about how Teravainen, the team’s leading scorer with 28 points, had quit shooting the puck. Peters said there was a coach-to-player chat. The coaches also talked it over, analyzing all the shot maps to see where Teravainen was taking shots.
“They’re not in the areas you’re going to score in the National Hockey League,” Peters said. “So you’ve got to get on the inside. Especially as the season continues on it gets harder and harder, so willing to pay the price in order to score.”
At 5-11 and 178 pounds, Teravainen doesn’t have the size or strength to plant himself in front of the net. His game is built on speed and quickness, and he has a nasty release on his shots — when he shoots.
“I’m shooting the puck when I have the chance … but I don’t think I’ve had that many good chances,” he said. “I need to move my legs better to get those chances, I think.”
Peters made it clear Saturday morning that the Hurricanes (16-12-7) were counting on Teravainen, who has eight goals this season, and needed him to get back on track.
“Our top-end guys have to be top-end guys if we’re going to be successful,” Peters said. “There’s no one who can come in and have a skill set like he has, so we need him to produce and be dangerous.”
Peters made Victor Rask a healthy scratch for two games in mid-November and the center responded by being more physically engaged and offensive-minded. Peters was asked if had considered taking the same approach with Teravainen, who is in his second season with the Hurricanes after the trade from the Chicago Blackhawks.
“No, I haven’t,” Peters said. “I think he can play his way out of it.”
Teravainen may have done it Saturday. His early shot from the left wing came in a sequence that ended with Aho scoring for the first time in eight games. He assisted on Jordan Staal’s power-play goal in the second period and the first of Justin Faulk’s two scores.
For Faulk, it was the defenseman’s second and third goals of the season and his first since Oct. 29. He busted out of his slump.
The Hurricanes will go into the Christmas break having won five of their past six games, with the only loss the 8-1 stinker against Toronto.
“We’re doing a better job of playing hard, playing simple,” Teravainen said. “Nothing too fancy. Just play a hard game.”
Sounds like a good personal game plan, as well.