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Hurricanes must get more out of special teams

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The Carolina Hurricanes face a lot of questions and gut-checks in 2013-14, but if they want to look at an area of special concern, they should focus on their special teams.

Simply put, the team hasn’t gotten enough out of their power-play or penalty-kill units for quite some time. Let’s take a look at those two situations.

Under-powered play

While it’s possible that things are changing under still-fairly-new head coach Kirk Muller, the Hurricanes have developed a history of blowing bountiful power-play opportunities.

While they were basically middle of the pack in power-play opportunities in 2013, one might chalk some of that up to the upheaval of an abbreviated season (or Muller). Regardless, take a look at the staggering amount of chances Carolina has traditionally received and the Canes’ spotty record of making the most of those chances:

2011-12: 5th most power-play opportunities (298), 16.7 percent, 49 PPG
2010-11: 1st (346), 15.9 percent, 55 PPG
2009-10: 1st (332), 16.9 percent, 56 PPG
2008-09: tied for first (374), 18.7 percent, 70 PPG
2007-08: first (420), 18.8 percent, 79 PPG
2006-07: second (447), 15 percent, 67 PPG
2005-06: third (531), 17.9 percent, 95 PPG

On paper, the Canes should be far more dangerous on the PP. They have enough talented forwards to round out two good-to-great units, with standouts such as Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner.

Perhaps one can pin some of the blame on a lack of an elite power-play quarterback, but if history repeats itself, then Muller needs to find a way to make this unit more efficient.

A real disadvantage

The Carolina Hurricanes’ penalty kill unit has been below the league average (percentage-wise) all but one season (2006-07) since 2005-06.

Unlike their power play, the Hurricanes don’t seem to boast the kind of personnel that would make for a great penalty kill. On paper, at least.

Again, it might come back to Muller, though. He’ll earn his keep if he can find a way to make this historically shaky group play at least to a league-average level.

***

There are reasons to feel both more optimistic and pessimistic about Carolina’s outlook in 2013-14, but they’d certainly make life easier for themselves if they play better outside of even-strength situations.

(Click here for some more numbers on their PP and PK.)

More Hurricanes Day at PHT fun

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Report: AHL’s Portland Pirates moving to Springfield

Portland Pirates goalie Mark Visentin makes a save during an AHL hockey game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/The Citizens' Voice, Andrew Krech) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Looks like the AHL isn’t finished shuffling around teams.

From the Portland Press Herald:

The Portland Pirates are leaving Maine.

Mitch Berkowitz, chair of the board of trustees for county-owned Cross Insurance Arena, confirmed Wednesday afternoon that “the Pirates will be headed to Springfield” Massachusetts, but that he did not know further details.

The city of Springfield has been searching for a team to replace the AHL Falcons, sold last month – although yet to be approved – to the parent Arizona Coyotes, who announced plans to move the franchise to Tucson.

The Pirates are the AHL affiliates of the Florida Panthers. They’ve been in Portland since 1993, when they started out as the Capitals’ farm team and were coached for a number of years by Barry Trotz.

Travis Green: ‘I think I’m ready’ to coach in the NHL

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Travis Green has never coached in the NHL, not even as an assistant.

But a lengthy career as a player, followed by success as a head coach in the WHL and AHL, has left him feeling prepared to take the next step.

“I think I’m ready,” Green told Postmedia yesterday. “Every job in the NHL is worth its weight in gold, and I would have 100 per cent interest at options with every team in the league. You hope all your qualities are enticing for one of them.”

After the Flames fired Bob Hartley yesterday, many are wondering if Green could be a candidate to take over in Calgary. Other head-coaching vacancies exist in Anaheim and Ottawa, and potentially Minnesota.

For the past three seasons, Green has been the head coach of the Utica Comets, the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. Last year, the Comets made it all the way to the Calder Cup finals, an accomplishment that Green found particularly rewarding since “it wasn’t like we had an all-star team.”

While some GMs won’t risk hiring a coach without any NHL experience — they’d prefer a guy who’s been there before and knows what to expect — it’s worth noting that Jon Cooper didn’t have an NHL track record before he took over in Tampa Bay, and he’s done OK. Heck, Dave Hastol hadn’t even coached professionals before he landed the job in Philadelphia, and the Flyers seem pretty happy with him.

Green is under contract for one more season in Utica, but reportedly has an out-clause to pursue an NHL job.

Related: Will the Sens take a run at Kevin Dineen?

After Game 3 drubbing, Stars rule out Seguin (again) for Game 4

Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Any thought Tyler Seguin flying into St. Louis after last night’s 6-1 blowout loss was wiped out on Wednesday morning, as Stars head coach ruled out both Seguin and fellow forward Patrick Eaves for Game 4.

The decision comes after Ruff played a bit coy prior to Game 3. While he said neither Seguin nor Eaves would travel with the Stars, he noted both had resumed skating back in Dallas, adding “they have flights into St. Louis every day.”

Well, the airline schedule doesn’t much matter now.

Game 4 will be played at Scottrade tomorrow night, which means Stars fans clamoring for Seguin might need to look ahead to Game 5, and the potential implications at hand.

Should the Stars even up the series at two heading back to Dallas, Seguin could return for Game 5 and provide what would be a huge momentum swinger.

Should the Stars lose on Thursday and return home down 3-1, Seguin could be inserted into the lineup simply to stave off elimination.

Or, Seguin could not play at all.

Whatever the case, Dallas has a tall task at hand — and it goes well beyond surviving life without No. 91. The club has allowed 10 goals over the last two games, and seems to have an issue in goal, where neither Antti Niemi nor Kari Lehtonen has played especially well.

Andreychuk confident that Stamkos will re-sign in Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Former Tampa Bay Lightning player Dave Andreychuk is now a member of the club’s senior management team, and he’s confident that the Bolts won’t lose Steven Stamkos to unrestricted free agency this summer.

“Steven is going to come back. He’s going to be fine,” Andreychuk told Hockey Central today, per Sportsnet.ca.

“I still believe that Steve Yzerman is trying whatever he can do to sign Steven Stamkos, and I believe it will happen.”

Andreychuk — whose official title is VP Corporate & Community Affairs — is not part of the Lightning’s hockey operations, but presumably he speaks with Yzerman, the general manager, from time to time.

Of course, the challenge for Yzerman goes well beyond re-signing the captain. Even with an owner that’s willing to spend to the cap, it simply may not be possible to keep Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ben Bishop, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, and Jonathan Drouin.

All eight of those players need new contracts this summer or next.

Stamkos, Hedman, and Bishop are pending UFAs, while the other five are pending RFAs.