Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 01/27/11 at 01:22 AM ET
On Wednesday, Carolina played their final game before the All-Star break and got a much needed 4-2 win over the Islanders behind two Eric Staal goals. Unfortunately, the Thrashers were simultaneously shutting out the Capitals 1-0, preserving their wafer-thin lead over the Canes for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
Carolina went 8-4-2 in January and are still out of the playoff picture, but they’re just one point out and hold two games in hand against the Thrashers.
After the break, Carolina has a tough road, as nine of 13 games in February are against teams currently in the playoff picture. Meanwhile, just one of Atlanta’s 11 February opponents is currently in the playoffs. Atlanta and Carolina face each other twice in what will be a very important month.
For now, Carolina can be happy with the way they played in January and specifically the hot play of Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner. Both will be featured players in this weekend’s ASG festivities.
Staal lit the lamp twice in the second period on Wednesday and assisted on another goal, bringing his point total to 52 (25/27) through the first 50 games. He will certainly reach 30 goals this season for the fifth time in his career and will likely hit 40 for the third time.
Jeff Skinner didn’t register any points against the Islanders, but he got some great news earlier in the day when the league announced that he and Paul Stastny will be All-Star game injury replacements for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Skinner, who had 14 (9/5) points in January, will be the youngest player ever to play in the All-Star game of any major big-league sport. His nine January goals is tops in the league. He was originally slated to only perform in the skills competition on Saturday, but he’s been promoted.
In the place of Skinner, Hurricanes defenseman Jamie McBain was named to the rookie squad. PK Subban was also named as an addition to the rookie list after Edmonton’s rookie Jordan Eberle pulled out with an injury.
Now Eric Staal has a little more pressure when he has his first pick in Friday’s fantasy draft. Will he pick Cam Ward? Marc Staal? Jeff Skinner? Thunder Bay native Patrick Sharp? It should be a lot of fun.
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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.