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Babchuk dropping some bombs: Defenseman has 11 goals // The News & Observer.
Mar. 20--RALEIGH -- The Carolina Hurricanes have added another offensive weapon late in the season -- the "Babchuk Bomb."
Defenseman Anton Babchuk has a career-high 11 goals, and seven have come in the past 14 games. When he loads up his slap shot from the point, opposing goaltenders probably cringe. It's hard, and it's heavy.
"When Babchuk gets the puck on his stick now, he's thinking shot," coach Paul Maurice said Thursday. "He's not thinking, 'I'm going to get this blocked.' And when you score some goals, you start feeling more comfortable with the puck."
Babchuk had two power-play goals Wednesday in the Canes' 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils. The second was a laser shot late in the second period that gave Carolina a 3-1 lead just as the Devils appeared to be fighting back into the game.
"Anton's got a great shot," said goaltender Cam Ward, who has faced more than a few in practice. "If he gets it through from the point, there's a good chance that it's going in the net."
Babchuk isn't the Canes' only blue-line threat. Joe Corvo has 13 goals and leads NHL defensemen with six game-winners. Joni Pitkanen has six goals and Dennis Seidenberg four.
"Big Joe's got a bomb, too," Maurice said. "There are a lot of guys back there who want the puck at the blue line now.
"It goes hand-in-hand. Our forwards don't mind giving it to them there. Some good things have happened back there."
A year ago, the defensemen accounted for 20 goals and 113 assists. Through 72 games this season, the defensive corps has 36 goals and 106 assists.
"What's happened is our forwards, since they started to work harder in the last month and a half and put more pressure on the puck, in order to respect them as the defending team you have to collapse further," Maurice said. "That's opened up our blue line.
"From day one, we talked about working those pucks low and using our defense. I think they're doing it now because we've had some success with it."
Babchuk, 24, left the Canes after the 2006-07 season to play in his native Russia. But he wanted back in the NHL and back on the Hurricanes, signing a one-year contract for $1 million in July.
Though his minutes were limited early in the season, Babchuk has played 22 or more minutes in 15 of the past 23 games. He is scoring, getting power-play time, being used on the penalty kill.
"I feel good," he said. "Everybody feels more comfortable when they play more. I try to take advantage of that."
Babchuk is positioning himself for a new contract after the season -- one that should be lucrative.
"There's not a lot of young defensemen who can shoot the puck like that," Maurice said. "I think really what's changed maybe in his game is that he's got confidence now, and you see it in our end of the ice. He's done a really good job positioning.
"I think a lot of it as a defenseman, you have to get acclimated to speed. It doesn't necessarily mean you have to do things faster, [but] you have to understand what the other team's speed does to you. When you can push out, when you have to give ice.
"A lot of playing defense in the [NHL] is experience. ... If you're not a real fast player, you have to make adjustments, and I think he's making adjustments in his game."
Other than shooting the puck. It's the goalie who has to adjust.