The Carolina Hurricanes’ history in Raleigh has a few distinct “eras” — the early years; the championship years; the lean years; the “Rod” years.
One of the brightest spots for the Canes in a stretch of years during which not much went right overall was Jeff Skinner. After the Canes drafted him seventh overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Skinner played in nearly every regular-season game for Carolina through 2018, and was among the team leaders in most offensive categories.
He had his best year with the Canes in 2016-17 with 63 points, including 37 goals. His production dipped in 2017-18, and the Canes traded Skinner to the Sabres for a package of draft picks that summer.
After a 40-goal campaign out of the chute with Buffalo in 2018-19, Skinner’s production fell way off. He had just 23 points in 59 games in 2019-20, and 14 in 53 games last season, leading some to believe that, while a popular player in Raleigh, the decision not to sign him was good from a hockey standpoint.
This year, though, Skinner appears to have found some new life. He had 15 points in 23 games before Saturday’s return to Raleigh, including five points in his past five games.
Svechnikov a surprise scratch
Andrei Svechnikov, who started the season sticks a’blazing with seven goals in seven games and has been among the Canes’ offensive catalysts this season, was a late injury scratch Saturday night against the Sabres.
The team announced Svechnikov’s absence, due to an “upper-body injury,” just over a half hour before the start of the game. Also missing from the lineup, as expected, were Brett Pesce and Tony DeAngelo (COVID) and Jordan Martinook (lower body).
Ethan Bear skated in warmups Saturday night. With no morning skate for the team, the Canes had to see if their steady right-shot defender was OK to return to action after missing nearly two weeks following a COVID-19 diagnosis.
The verdict? Yes, indeed.
Bear slotted back into the lineup Saturday, if only out of necessity. The team dressed seven defenders and 11 forwards after injuries to Svechnikov and Martinook left the team low on reserves.
To say the Canes have been a bit thin on defense would qualify among the year’s top understatements. Bear was the first domino to fall when he was sent home from the team’s long West Coast road swing after testing positive for COVID-19. He was immediately quarantined, leaving Carolina short on the blue line.
A few games later, two more Canes defenders — DeAngelo and Pesce — tested positive and were placed in NHL protocols, leaving Carolina without its entire stock of regular NHL right-shot defenders.
Already struggling on the power play, losing all three right-shot defenders was another blow to that unit — not to mention even-strength defending, particularly against a plucky Ottawa team that’s hard to play against.
That made Bear’s return to the lineup Saturday that much sweeter for the Canes, who need some stability on the blue line.
Hot and cold
The mystery of whether Seth Jarvis would stay in the NHL kept Canes fans teetering on their seats earlier this season. A top draft pick with oodles of potential, Jarvis waited his turn in the team’s lineup at the beginning of the season.
Finally, on Halloween, Jarvis debuted, and made his presence known immediately with an assist against Arizona. The next night, he netted his first NHL goal, on the road in Chicago.
And then … not much. Jarvis was a minus-1 with six shots on goal over the next four games, and the question of whether he’d be sent to skate for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League was still very much valid. If he played more than 10 games for the Canes, the first year of his entry-level contract kicked in.
Like many rookies, though, the swings were just starting for Jarvis. He scored three goals and added an assist while accounting for 13 shots on goal, making the decision to keep him in the NHL a no-brainer.
The well has since dried up a touch for Jarvis — as it has for a handful of Canes during the team’s current slump — though the rookie’s play is magnified given his age and fast start. In his five games previous to Saturday, Jarvis collected a pair of assists and 11 shots on goal. He’s well past his 10-game threshold and clearly in the lineup to stay this season. The key to his success will be leveling out his highs and lows as a rookie forward.
▪ It’s been a while, Buffalo — a really, really long while. Saturday, the Hurricanes faced the Sabres for the first time in more than two calendar years.
During the pandemic-shortened regular season of 2019-20, the Canes traveled to Buffalo on Nov. 14, where they earned a 5-4 overtime win at KeyBank Center. The teams were next slated to play at PNC Arena late in the season before the NHL shut down due to COVID-19. When play resumed with the modified summer playoffs, Buffalo was out of the mix, and the subsequent season saw the teams split into different divisions with no crossover.
To find the most recent Sabres visit to Raleigh, we need to go back to March 16, 2019, a 4-2 Carolina win at PNC Arena.
▪ Speaking of winning against the Sabres, the Canes entered Saturday’s game riding the third-longest active win streak against a single opponent in the NHL. Since a home loss to the Sabres on March 22, 2016, Carolina was 10-0-0 against Buffalo. Only Boston (16 in a row over Arizona) and New Jersey (11 in a row over Vancouver) had longer streaks intact.
▪ Against the Sens on Thursday night, Teuvo Teravainen scored his 100th NHL goal during the Canes’ furious comeback attempt in the third period. Teravainen had been held scoreless for 10 consecutive games, having last scored on Nov. 9 in Tampa. Thursday’s goal was also just his second goal on home ice this season, his first coming in the season opener against the Islanders.