Hurricanes forward Lindholm still finding his way

RALEIGH, N.C. – Carolina Hurricanes forward Elias Lindholm was the hero of the night when his shootout goal turned out to be the winner in a recent 2-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.

Though the goal didn’t get added to his point total on the season, it had to have provided some confidence to him after being a healthy scratch when the Hurricanes began their current four-game road trip in New York.

It was the first time that he had sat all season and seemed to hit the lowest point of a season that has fluctuated for the second-year NHLer.

Catching up with him a week ago, he sounded upbeat about his game.

He wasn’t overly pleased with it by any means, but not disappointed either

Heading into that night’s matchup against the St. Louis Blues, Lindholm provided some insight on what was working for him up to that point.

The Hurricanes had just won their third straight game, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 earlier that week.

He had posted an assist in that game and had scored the game-winning goal in a 4-1 win over Toronto a week before that.

“I think my game is good right now,” Lindholm said.

“January’s been good for us. As we came into the season, this is how we wanted to play. We’re not surprised that we could beat all the good teams in the league. It’s what we expected from the start. For myself, it’s been up and down. A lot of games I think I’m playing good, but the puck doesn’t wanna’ go in. Two games ago, against Toronto, I scored once, so hopefully I can get some soon so it doesn’t get too long between goals, you know.”

Even while getting points in those games, the two previous to those, he came up empty-handed.

It’s a pattern that he’s followed most of the season.

He indicated that his game could be better stating, “The last couple of games haven’t been good from my side, so I need to step that up. We’re a really skilled team and we should score more goals than what we have.”

Lindholm has gone through stretches, two in October, of six and five games in length that challenged him.

He responded in early November, scoring three game-winning goals against Arizona, Los Angeles and Columbus as part of a seven-game period during which he scored six goals.

However, he then went dormant for the next 15 games, two separate seven-game scoreless periods that sandwiched a one-goal effort from late November into mid-December.

“I wanna’ come back to where I was when we had the win streak at the beginning of the season there. I try to find that. I gotta’ come back to it – working hard, being hungry every shift when the opportunity shows up. Bear down and wanna’ score at every price. That’s what I have to come back to.”

As Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters made line adjustments, a process that continues, Lindholm has recently found himself working on a line with the Staal brothers, Eric and Jordan.

With Jordan’s return from injury, the team’s game has shown more production.

“The Staal line is scoring a couple of goals a game. That’s good for the team. That shows we can score more than two goals every game. It’s good to get the production going. Everyone’s scoring a decent amount of points with the Staal brothers, so it’s good to see.”

It’s a point well taken considering the Hurricanes have scored three or more goals in seven of their last 11 games, and are 6-2-3 during that span.

Prior to that stretch, Carolina had scored three or more goals in just 13 of their first 40 games this season.

Peters now demands even more of his forwards to find their way to the top of the crease in order to score goals.

“Seven or eight feet in front of the net, that’s where you score goals from, right?” Peters reiterated.

Though having played along the wall when he played in the Swedish pro league before getting drafted, Lindholm said he got more practice and responsibility at assuming a spot at the top of the crease during that year.

It’s the spot where Lindholm has found his way to and adjusting to assuming this season in the NHL.

“I just started to take on this role and I’m doing the best I can,” Lindholm said.

The low slot is not an easy place to stand considering the risks involved with shots coming from the point between 90-100 miles per hour or more.

Lindholm understands the risks, but is willing to go there and is not afraid to do so.

“I mean, not when I’m out there, but sometimes it’s kind of scary to be there. You never know when a puck is gonna’ get up there. I mean it’s nothing you can do, but just try and help the team in scoring goals. I think the biggest key to scoring goals is to get in the front there.”

Thus, as fans see him in front of the net more, they will also hopefully see the results from it, even as his year still ebbs and flows.

He’s still a work in progress, but one that is important to Carolina’s future success.

Lindholm currently sits third on the Hurricanes scoring list with nine goals and 12 assists in 50 games, trailing defenseman Justin Faulk (10g, 19a) and captain Eric Staal (16g, 15a).

After talking about his game that morning just a week ago, it seemed that he would bottom out.

He finished without a point and claimed a minus-1 rating in 13 minutes of playing time against the Blues which capped off a 15-game stretch that had him scoring only one goal.

As a result, a view from the press box at Madison Square Garden was what he earned as a result of Coach Peters swinging ‘the hammer’ in his direction.

It seemed to have reinvigorated him to earn an assist in a 5-4 overtime loss to Anaheim before scoring the shootout winner on Thursday.

He played 17 and 21 minutes in both of those games respectively.

It’s all just part of the process and the roller coaster pattern that Lindholm has been following.

Hopefully after the big drop he’s just gone through, the enormous dose of adrenaline he picked up from not wanting to sit out and ducking from future swings of the hammer will result in more goals and points from the hard-working and still-developing forward.