On a Carolina Hurricanes team generally lacking physicality, and now lacking injured forward Sebastian Aho, Elias Lindholm feels the need to make things happen on the ice.
“He does play with a bit of an edge to him,” teammate Lee Stempniak said Monday.
A bit? There are times when Lindholm comes over the boards and there’s a sense the Swedish forward is about to quickly shake things up.
That happened late in the first period Sunday against the Vegas Golden Knights. Not liking the direction the game was taking – the Golden Knights led 3-0 – Lindholm decided to hit somebody.
Spotting defenseman Nate Schmidt along the boards, the 6-foot-1, 192-pound Lindholm rammed his shoulder into Schmidt’s chest. Down went Schmidt.
Vegas’ Jonathan Marchessault, not liking it, skated up to hit Lindholm, but Lindholm spun around and knocked Marchessault backward. In seconds, the two had dropped the gloves for a short but intense scrap.
“We had nothing going on and the game was running out of our hands and I felt something had to happen,” Lindholm said Monday. “The situation just came up. I felt it was a good opportunity to hit. Then (Marchessault) came after me. I didn’t think it was a dirty hit but they tried to stick up for each other. So did I, for myself.
“It’s a part of my game, to hit. Be physical. I’m not looking for it. But if it’s there I’m going to finish.”
It’s a part of my game, to hit. Be physical. I’m not looking for it. But if it’s there I’m going to finish.
Canes forward Elias Lindholm
Marchessault was penalized four minutes for roughing and the Canes scored on the ensuing power play as defenseman Jaccob Slavin ripped a top-shelf shot.
“We were pretty flat and you’re looking for a spark, whether a goal, a good power play, a big hit, a fight,” Stempniak said. “Elias is a strong guy who plays hard. It was definitely a spark.”
Although not enough. The Golden Knights, the expansion team that keeps expanding its points total, won 5-1.
With Aho sidelined indefinitely with a concussion and lower-body injury, the Canes need more from Lindholm, Jeff Skinner, Teuvo Teravainen and other forwards. Aho leads the team in goals and assists and his absence, however long or short, will be felt.
“He’s been our best player this year,” Lindholm said. “When your best player is out, people have to step up. Obviously I want to be one of those guys who steps up and helps out.”
Lindholm, 23, has replaced Aho on the top line with center Jordan Staal and winger Teuvo Teravainen. In Saturday’s road game against the Detroit Red Wings, the Canes’ first after their five-day NHL bye, Lindholm scored twice in a 3-1 victory.
When your best player is out, people have to step up. Obviously I want to be one of those guys who steps up and helps out.
Canes forward Elias Lindholm
Then, Vegas. Lindholm wasn’t an offensive threat but again his presence was felt.
“There’s not a lot of guys in the league that are hard and heavy anymore,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “It’s a very fast league and there’s not a lot of contact and physicality and guys being able to hold on to pucks, and he can do that.
“We don’t have a of them, either, so he’s good piece for us and a guy who’s trending in the right direction.”
Much is expected of first-round draft picks and Carolina made Lindholm the fifth overall pick in 2013. His development wasn’t as swift as some fans would have liked – or Lindholm.
In an interview before training camp, Lindholm was critical of himself for not scoring but 11 goals in each of the past two seasons. He said he was capable of 20 or more, saying that was needed from someone in a top-six forward role.
Lindholm has 14 after his two-goal game in Detroit and should top 20 goals for the first time in his career – he had a career-high 17 in 2014-15.
Lindholm said he prides himself on being a strong two-way forward, responsible defensively but also constantly productive in the offensive zone. He kills penalties, is used on the power play and one of the Canes’ best on faceoffs.
“He plays hard, finishes his checks, is a great passer, has a good shot, is really smart,” Stempniak said. “He’s extremely well-rounded as a player.”