Hurricanes defenseman Faulk keeping his eye on the puck

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

RALEIGH, N.C. – It’s no mistake that Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk is always near the puck.

If he’s not carrying it up the ice, passing or shooting to set up scoring plays, he’s not too far away trying to get it back to do the same.

Faulk’s offensive game has remained consistent since he started his pro career in 2011-2012, while still developing his defensive skills as a young National Hockey League (NHL) blueliner.

He currently ranks second in scoring on the team while sitting tied for 20th among league defenseman with 22 points this season (7g, 15a).

The 22-year old is the second youngest player in the top 20 with only Boston’s Dougie Hamilton (23 pts) at 21 younger than him.

“I’ve always kind of said if I focus on other things first, usually it will fall into place,” Faulk said.

“Things have been kinda’ goin’ in. Just tryin’ to show up and play every day for 60 minutes – play a complete game. At the same time, just tryin’ to throw pucks to the net, and create chances. You’re not gonna’ score it you don’t get pucks down in their end.”

“I think I’m getting better at reading when to pinch and when not to,” Faulk continued when talking about playing under head coach Bill Peters’ system.

“When’s a good chance to keep the puck in and generate something off the pinch. I think just having that ability to judge a little bit better, when is the opportune time to jump in and create offense has helped me out quite a bit.”

Without the puck, Carolina’s 343 takeaways this season rank third in the league while Faulk has recorded 28 of those takeaways, tied for third among defensemen.

While as a team the Hurricanes have struggled to score enough goals to win games, the defensive numbers have shown improvement at even strength and on the penalty kill.

The Hurricanes have finished in the top five in the league in takeaways in three of the last four seasons.

They were fifth in the NHL in 2010-11 and finished second in 2012-13, behind only the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks.

It’s an area that Faulk has worked on individually to be successful while helping the team do the same.

“I think my first couple of years I was really trying to focus on becoming better defensively,” Faulk said.

“I was never regarded as a defensive defenseman when I got here. I was never viewed, I didn’t think, as one to play against top lines. I didn’t think that would happen as soon as it did in my career. It’ ssomething I worked on, and now that I think I can judge a bit better on how to make those plays to shut people down.”

Heading into Thursday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, the Hurricanes rank fifth in the NHL in penalty-kill percentage at 86.1 percent.

During the last eight games Carolina has not allowed a power-play goal and has killed 22 penalties during that stretch.

Faulk leads NHL defensemen with two shorthanded goals and is one of only seven defensemen with a shorthanded goal this season.

All-in-all, though he’s put up offensive numbers that have matched his rookie season totals and headed to top last season’s, he knows that his success at both ends of the rink will only rise along with the team’s success.

“It’s been goin’ in once in a while like they have been, but at the same time, I think it happens more when we win,” he said.

“I think that’s the same with everyone – the more games we win, the more points you’re gonna’ get.”