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Hurricanes still hanging around


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   The Carolina Hurricanes were picked by most pundits to be th?id=OIP.M9404a33d26c43a5d1766af46f3284out of it by mid-November at the latest are still hanging around the fringe of the playoff race as Mid-January is here.

  No longer led by Eric Staal and Cam Ward who a decade ago keyed an unlikely Stanley Cup but are now more in a supporting role, the team belongs to the leagues least known superstar (that is right I said Superstar!) th?id=OIP.Mb192b55d60d9e8b3d8d584be91212who is a Karlsson lite who may catch up to the tops in the league on the blueline he leads the team in scoring and has an insane 12 power play goals second only to Kane in Chicago.

  Speaking of Chicago, the salary cap which forced them to dump forwards Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom on the Canes has worked out tremendously. Versteeg is third on the team in scoring, Nordstrom is a valuable penalty killer.

Jeff th?id=OIP.M574bfc40a931c2ee798901561c4efSkinner has rediscovered his goal scoring ability with 16 in the first half. Victor Rask has begun to develop as a first line center. My favorite Cane, Elias Lindholm started painfully slow but now he is finding his groove.

  I love the defense led by Faulk who again is the most underrated superstar in the game, youngsters Brett Pesce and future star Noah Hanifin are playing every night and not embarrassing themselves while veteran Hainsey stabilizes things. More solid kids are on the way.

  In net Ward and Lack have been solid, not brilliant but they haven't needed to be they have held there own keeping the team in the games most nights.

  As of right now the Canes are tied with the Flyers with 45 points and only two points out of a playoff spot. Amazingly they are within shouting distance of studly teams such as the Lightning (3 points back) the Habs (4) and unbelievably only six points behind the Isles, Wings and Rangers.

  Before the season I thought this team could and should wind up at 90 points, a few short of the playoffs but in the conversation. Glad to see that going on a limb with that has not embarrassed me to badly.

  The big thing being discussed is what to do with Eric th?id=OIP.M46d3a8233c9c06342e93d4eeeca36Staal.and the remaining UFA veterans. If they are hanging around the fringe of the playoffs do you keep them and maybe add a piece or two to make a run or do you deal them knowing that you likely cannot retain them? Versteeg, Staal and Ward are all UFAs at the end of the year, rumors are already swirling around all three with Staal saying he will not use his no trade clause if dealt providing he is traded to a contender. That may appear short term to eliminate the Leafs who have long coveted him.

  Anyway, just a short article to tip my hat to a team that nobody much talks about, supposed to be a lottery team who is still hanging tough with the big boys and getting absolutely no ink for doing so outside of Raleigh. They have made strides in the right direction.

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