RALEIGH, N.C. – With so many new faces joining the Carolina Hurricanes this offseason, it’s easy for one or two guys to fly under the radar. For good reason, eyes were on players like Elias Lindholm and even Nathan Gerbe this September. After all, they weren’t the ones who contributed to the Hurricanes’ fourth straight year of sitting at home in the spring.
But arguably, neither did Patrick Dwyer.
Though not flashy with the puck, Dwyer is sound defensively with the wheels to make you pay, especially shorthanded. Of his 29 career goals, four have come on the penalty kill.
And as of late, he’s been a surprising fit with Jordan Staal, the two teaming up for the game’s only goal in Friday’s preseason finale. The duo was relentless, and Dwyer could have had a hat trick in a five minute span during the second period.
“It’s something they’re able to experiment through three weeks of training camp, and we’ve seem to found a little chemistry,” Dwyer said.
A year ago, they were almost inseparable. Of Dwyer’s near 600 minutes of even-strength ice time, 46 percent of it was spent with Staal, one of the most common forward pairings on the team. Jeff Skinner-Jordan Staal got more 5 on 5 time together, but Dwyer actually outproduced Skinner per 60 minutes of ice time.
Skinner and Staal never seemed to work well together. This year, Kirk Muller has rarely paired the two, even during practice. Whether Skinner centers his own line or plays on the wing remains to be seen, but it appears he won’t be playing next to Staal.
With Tuomo Ruutu slated to miss an extended period of time, Dwyer might find himself along side the younger Staal again in 2013-14. And with Gerbe looking at home on the line as well, the ‘Canes may have finally found a trio to compliment the top line.
“They both have been playing real well, making it easy on me,” said Staal after the game, calling Gerbe a ‘little spark-plug’. “It’s fun playing with those two guys.”
Through first an injury to Jiri Tlusty and now Alex Semin, Eric Staal’s group from a season ago hasn’t gotten in much practice during training camp. But all signs point to them reuniting if healthy. The questions always fell to the rest of the team, especially with so many on the shelf.
“It wasn’t the plan,” Muller admitted. “I’d like to say that we thought of that, but with the injuries and all that, we’ve just mixed things around. It’s been really good chemistry.”
All three bring different elements to the table.
“Jordan’s back there playing a straight-forward power game, Gerbs gives them some speed and some skill and [Dwyer] is reliable. It has a nice balance and it’s been a good, solid, consistent line.”
Though this lineup might push Skinner to the team’s “third line” with either Riley Nash or Elias Lindholm, fans shouldn’t get caught up in labels. Skinner is sure to get his share of minutes, especially on the power-play. And theoretically, he’ll be going up against easier competition, which can only help to boost his confidence and correct his sliding point total.
The Hurricanes still have six days off before opening night with decisions to be made, though it appears some may be making themselves.
Staal’s wingers might be a bit unorthodox, and not what was expected before camp started. Ruutu was supposed to be healthy, and either Skinner or Lindholm sounded a good fit on the other side.
But you can’t argue with chemistry.
Photo credit: Andy Martin Jr.