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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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Devils unveil ‘The Salute’ statue in honor of Martin Brodeur

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The New Jersey Devils on Monday unveiled ‘The Salute’ — a statue paying homage to one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, Martin Brodeur, who will have his No. 30 uniform retired Tuesday at Prudential Center.

“Looking at the pictures of my career and some of the events that meant a lot to me, I always saluted the fans,” Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils, told the Fire and Ice blog.

“That picture, at different times, in different jerseys, actually, like with Team Canada, it all came to that same pose.”

More on the statue from the Devils:

The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.

Video: Panthers furious after Abdelkader ‘cheap shot’ hit on Barkov

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The Florida Panthers are fuming after their skilled 20-year-old forward Aleksander Barkov left Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings following a hit from Justin Abdelkader.

Abdelkader caught Barkov with a hard hit near the goal line as the Panthers player tried to move the puck up ice early in the second period.

The only call on the play was to Panthers’ blue liner Alex Petrovic for the retaliatory cross check on Abdelkader. Barkov left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury.

Members of the Panthers irate with the hit, and the fact there was no call.

“It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”

“You hate to lose your top player, but that’s part of the game,” added Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant.

“We’re disappointed to lose him. I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way and explained to me it was a clean check. It’s tough. It happens quick and we get to see the replay. I think it’ll be looked at. [Abdelkader] left his feet a little and got him in the jaw.”

The Panthers gave up three goals in the third period in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings.

Penguins thump the Ducks as Crosby’s hot streak continues

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In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.

After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.

The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.

— He extended his scoring streak to a career best seven games, and did so with two beauty goals versus the Ducks.

— From Dec. 18 to Feb. 8, he’s appeared in 21 games. In that span, he’s recorded 34 points.

— Crosby is now into the top five among NHL players in points, with 53 in 51 games this season.

He wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to have a big night. Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even in the lineup due to a lower-body injury.

Ten different Penguins players recorded points. In addition to Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang had multi-point efforts, and four players — Kunitz, Crosby, Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist — were plus-four.

The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.

The Islanders also have a game in hand.

Panthers’ Barkov (upper-body injury) leaves game versus Red Wings

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The Florida Panthers will be without Aleksander Barkov for the remainder of their game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

As per multiple reports, Barkov will not return due to an upper-body injury suffered after a hit from Justin Abdelkader early in the second period.

Abdelkader wasn’t given a penalty on the play. Barkov didn’t play another shift after that hit.

In 42 games this season, the 20-year-old Barkov has 16 goals and 35 points.