Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 01/21/11 at 01:04 AM ET
On Thursday, in the fourth of a tough five-game stretch, the Hurricanes played a sound game against the road-weary Rangers and ended up with a convincing 4-1 win. The five game stretch got off to a great start with a 6-4 win at home against the Lightning last Saturday. That was followed by a lackluster performance in a blowout 7-0 loss at Boston on Monday. The next day, Carolina played a much better game, but still lost 3-2 in regulation to the Bs. They have gained four of the eight available points so far and are still in fair shape, only two points behind the Thrashers with two games in hand. Up next is a Saturday game at Pittsburgh, who will likely be without Sidney Crosby.
Tonight, the newly formed second line of Jeff Skinner / Tuomo Ruutu / Chad LaRose did the heavy lifting. Skinner and Sharpie each had a goal and an assist while Ruutu pitched in with two assists. Jussi Jokinen scored again and Brandon Sutter lit the lamp for the first time in 16 games.
Cam Ward made 39 saves to earn the win.
The Rangers demolished the Maple Leafs 7-0 in MSG on Wednesday night, and for long stretches of this game, they looked every bit like a tired team. Late in the second period, Carolina had the puck in the Rangers zone for what seemed like six straight minutes. Henrik Lundqvist looked out of sorts. Coach John Tortorella looked out of sorts. Defenseman Marc Staal looked out of sorts. Whether they were the better rested team or whatever, Carolina was still the better team on the ice on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Atlanta lost in a shootout to Tampa, but they got a point to keep some distance between themselves and the Hurricanes. Heading into the break, the Thrashers will play three very tough games: against the Rangers on Saturday, at Tampa on Sunday and against Washington on Wednesday. It’s not likely that they’ll get more than three points out of those three games. On the other hand, Carolina has the tough game at Pittsburgh on Saturday followed by a home game against the Leafs on Monday and a game at the Islanders on Wednesday. They should expect to get no less than four points out of that stretch. The Canes could catch or even pass Atlanta in the next six days leading into the break.
Jeff Skinner had an outstanding game again tonight, and he worked very hard to earn the goal and assist. He’s not really running into any of the problems that people expect from a rookie. He’s not hitting a wall (yet), he’s not losing focus. He’s staying poised and doesn’t look anything like an 18-year old kid. From the way he carries himself on the ice to the way he conducts interviews, you’d never guess that he’s only played 47 professional games. It’s scary, but he might even be hitting his stride just now. In his last eight games, he has eleven (6/5) points and three multi-point games.
Skinner has helped Erik Cole tremendously this season when they have played together. He’s been completely awesome with Tuomo Ruutu, who is on pace for the best season of his NHL career. It looks like Skinner and LaRose are really good together, too. As much as I liked the JET line, the Skinner/Ruutu/Sharpie line looked great tonight. I’m hoping that they stay together for at least the Pittsburgh game, but there’s no telling with coach Maurice.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.