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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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Lindholm in Sweden, won’t report to Ducks until contract signed

Hampus Lindholm
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Yesterday, we passed along news of Hampus Lindholm‘s contract demands — reportedly eight years, at least $6 million per — and news that the prized young d-man has been training in Sweden.

Now, his agent has confirmed Lindholm won’t be leaving Sweden until the deal gets done.

“Our plan is to report to the team once we have a contract signed,” said Claude Lemieux, per the O.C. Register. “Until then Hampus is training in Sweden.”

The 22-year-old is currently skating with SHL club Rogle BK, the same team Lindholm played for prior to getting drafted sixth overall in 2012.

The Ducks are already two games into their preseason schedule, and will play their third on Saturday in Arizona. From there, Anaheim has four exhibition games remaining — against the Kings, Oilers and two against the Sharks — before opening the regular season on Oct. 13 in Dallas.

Lemieux confirmed to the Register that they’re working on a “long-term agreement” for Lindholm, adding that both he and Ducks GM Bob Murray are “working on getting this resolved ASAP.”

The Ducks certainly need Lindholm in the lineup. He led all blueliners in goals last year, with 10, and averaged 22 minutes per night, second only to Cam Fowler on defense.

Penguins to visit White House next week

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 12: The Pittsburgh Penguins pose for their photo with the Stanley Cup after their teams 3-1 victory to win the Stanley Cup against the San Jose Sharks in Game Six of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the San Jose Sharks 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins will visit President Obama at the White House on Thursday (Oct. 6).

These White House visits don’t always occur during the preseason (the 2015 champs from Chicago went in February, for example), but as you might have heard, there’s an election in November.

This will be the Penguins’ second visit with President Obama. They first met him after winning in 2009, during his first term. That visit actually occurred in early September, before the Pens even reported to training camp.

“With the Steelers and Penguins, I guess it’s a good time to be a sports fan in Pittsburgh,” Obama said during the visit.

“I was complaining about this,” he then joked. “It’s been a while since Chicago won anything.”

The next year, the Blackhawks won their first Cup since 1961.

Hossa going ‘year-by-year,’ as his contract begins to dive

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 09:  Marian Hossa #81 of the Chicago Blackhawks talks to a teammate against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on February 9, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Sharks defeated the Blackhawks 2-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Marian Hossa has one of those long-term, back-diving contracts they don’t let players sign anymore.

When he signed the 12-year deal, all the way back in 2009, it was generally assumed he’d retired before it expired. (Remember, the NHL didn’t have the “cap recapture” penalty then; that was brought in a few years later.)

This season, his salary dips to $4 million, from the $7.9 million he was paid in the first seven years of his deal. After that, it’s just $1 million in each of the final four years, per General Fanager.

So, does the assumption that he’ll retire before his contract expires still hold?

“I go year-by-year right now and I try to not focus on five years,” Hossa said, per the Chicago Tribune. “At this point, you never know what can happen. You know, too many injuries or these things can slow you down. Or anything can change. But right now I feel pretty good so I try to go for it.”

Hossa can still play, make no mistake. His point production fell dramatically last season, and it remains to be seen if he’ll skate with Jonathan Toews in Chicago’s top six, or if he’ll be knocked down to the third line. But anyone who watched him during the World Cup knows he can still play.

That being said, at 37, he’s one of the oldest players in the NHL. In fact, last season, there were only 10 forwards who were older, and that list will only grow shorter this season.

So, will Hossa play five more years, until he’s 42? It will be incredible if he does. And if he doesn’t, will the Blackhawks incur a recapture penalty? Or will some sort of injury allow them to escape it?

That all remains to be seen.

“My goal is to play to where I can play my level,” he said, “and if not, go from there.”

Related: Quenneville thinks Hossa ‘could be’ the next Jagr or Selanne

Landeskog to remain captain under Bednar, his third head coach in Colorado

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 17:  Gabriel Landeskog #92 of the Colorado Avalanche looks on during a break in the action against the Montreal Canadiens at Pepsi Center on February 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Canadiens 3-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Per the Denver Post, new Colorado head coach Jared Bednar has informed Gabriel Landeskog he will remain Avs captain this season.

It’s a speech Landeskog has heard before.

Originally named captain back in 2012 under then-head coach Joe Sacco, Landeskog retained the “C” when the Avs fired Sacco in favor of Patrick Roy, and now retains it again over the third coaching change of his young career.

“It needs to be said that I respected Patty on and off the ice and I enjoyed working with him for three years,” Landeskog said, per the Post. “But I’m really exited about having Jared here. It feels like he brings in a lot of fresh air and comes in with a lot of optimism about this group.

“It feels like he believes in us.”

Landeskog is certainly one to watch this season. His game has gone in a bit of a strange direction since capturing the Calder in 2012, marked by a steady decline in offense (from 65 points in ’13-14, to 59 in ’14-15, to 53 last year) and an increase in disciplinary issues.

The 23-year-old was suspended three games in March for a “reckless and irresponsible” cross-check on Ducks d-man Simon Despres. Landeskog was visibly upset about his actions, especially given his leadership role and the fact the Avs were battling for their playoff lives.

But there were signs of a somewhat reckless player prior to the Despres incident. Last November, he was suspended two games for a dangerous hit on Brad Marchand.

These incidents could be why there was some question if Landeskog would retain his captaincy under Bednar.

On that note, one thing to mention — while Landeskog will keep wearing the “C”, it sounds as though there’ll be changes under him in the leadership group. Bednar said the alternate captain positions, previously held by veterans Jarome Iginla and Cody McLeod — are up for grabs.

The assistant captains and what we do with the rest of the group will be evaluated and then we’ll make decisions on that later on and whether it’s two guys, four guys, all the things that we want to consider as an organization,” Bednar said, per the Post. “We’re going to take the camp to evaluate it, just as we evaluate their play through camp and exhibition.”