RALEIGH, N.C.—There are an innumerable amount of things one can be taught in the game of hockey over the course of a lifetime. Chemistry is not one of them.
For chemistry to develop between two players, there has to be a certain spark between them—an “it factor,” so to speak. Needless to say, Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner have “it.”
The two have truly clicked since being paired together in training camp several weeks ago, combining for 10 points thus far in the 2013 season. Each has also grown into a very specific role on Carolina’s second forward line: Staal, who has yet to score but has five assists, has been the play-maker; Skinner, who has five goals but no assists, is the finisher.
“It’s been great playing with Jordan,” Skinner said. “He brings a lot to this organization.”
Staal has earned helpers on three of Skinner’s five tallies this year, including this one on Monday night against the Boston Bruins:
“On my goal there (Staal) made a great play on the wall,” said Skinner. “He makes the game easy for me.”
Staal now has assists in four straight contests. Skinner has goals in four straight.
Zac Dalpe, the third member of this formidable unit, believes they’ve been successful due to the unique skill set each brings to the ice.
“I think Skins brings creativity, and you’ve got Jordan down the middle with the big body,” he said. “Then I’ve just got to use my speed to get a shot off whenever I can.”
Dalpe, 23, has earned two points (o G, 2 A) in four games played with the Canes this year, after lighting it up in Charlotte before the lockout ended with 28 points in 38 games.
While his numbers may not be on par with his line-mates, the former second round pick hasn’t gotten a whole lot of minutes (just 10:43) on Monday, and he’s making the most of the ice time provided to him.
“He’s a great player,” J. Staal said of Dalpe. “He can skate like the wind, but he also makes great plays and he’s smart with the puck. He’s a good line-mate and I’m happy to have him.”
Muller Happy with Second Line
Head coach Kirk Muller has been pleased with the way his second line has looked early on, and like Dalpe, thinks that each of the three brings a distinctive style of play to the table.
“Jordan’s a big guy who can track the puck down low. Skins is the type of player that reacts off of people,” said Muller. “By Jordan hanging onto (the puck) down there, he gives Skins a chance to find the holes, find the openings and then capitalize on his skill level.”
When the Hurricanes acquired Jordan Staal from the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer, the team wasted little time signing the 6′ 4” forward to a 10-year, $60 million contract—the longest in franchise history. Soon thereafter, GM Jim Rutherford inked Skinner to a six-year, $34.35 million deal, effectively avoiding restricted free agency with the former Calder Trophy winner.
In just over five weeks time, Staal and Skinner, 24 and 20 years old, respectively, were cemented as two integral parts—or “cornerstones”—of Carolina’s growing foundation of young talent.
At 23 years old, Jordan is just coming into his prime. He represents a cornerstone of our franchise for the long term.
— Jim Rutherford (@HurricanesGM) July 1, 2012
Jeff is a cornerstone player for us, and his long-term commitment to Carolina is great news for our franchise & our fans.
— Jim Rutherford (@HurricanesGM) August 8, 2012
While the Canes have several other players locked up long-term—namely Eric Staal and Cam Ward—only Jordan Staal and Skinner are signed beyond the 2015-16 season.
And given the way they look alongside each other, they could be a dangerous duo in Carolina for quite some time.
Andrew Hirsh is a credentialed NHL writer based in North Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewhirsh and email him at email@example.com.