Plug-and-play: Wallmark proving to be a gem in the middle of ‘Canes 4th line

Carolina Hurricanes

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said he doesn’t rely on Lucas Wallmark for scoring. It makes sense given Wallmark’s role as fourth-line center and the amount of firepower throughout the ‘Canes lienup.

Still, with an assist on Ryan Dzingel’s empty-net goal in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Montreal, Wallmark extended his career-long point streak to seven games. He has four goals and five helpers in that span.

It’s a testament to Wallmark’s rounded skillset and his ability to step up whenever and wherever needed.

Carolina Hurricanes’ Lucas Wallmark celebrates his goal against the Minnesota Wild during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

“He’s super important. I don’t know if he sets the tone as much as he does he kind of fills in. If there’s a leak, he plugs it,” Brind’Amour said. “Whatever we ask him to do, whether it’s to kill penalties, now he’s scoring power-play goals, playing against (other teams’) best lines, he’s capable of doing all that.”

The ‘Canes are 4-3 over those seven games. They endured a three-game skid but have back-to-back wins over the Capitals and Canadiens since coming back to Raleigh for a seven-game homestand.

Wallmark’s role may not have him earmarked as a day-in, day-out scorer, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the skillset. He had 10 goals in 81 games last season. He’s well on pace to surpass that total with eight tallies halfway through the campaign.

Wallmark showed it at the AHL level, too. The 24-year-old Swede had 24 goals and 46 points in 67 games in his first season with the Charlotte Checkers. A year later in the 2017-18 season, Wallmark notched 17 goals and 55 points in only 45 games.

The recent surge in scoring has meant a spot centering the second power-play unit. Wallmark may not be the best skater on the team or have the most dangerous shot, but he makes up for it in his hockey sense and with playmaking skills.

Giving him the special-teams role was born out of necessity due to Erik Haula’s nagging knee injury. Keeping Wallmark there upon Haula’s recent return didn’t require much thought.

“It’s a pretty easy decision,” Brind’Amour said. “He has a good knack. He’s not the quickest guy, but on the power play sometimes you have a little more time and space. He’s been really effective.”

Wallmark is finding twine one just over 15 percent of his shots. That number is going to regress a bit to the average and he won’t always chip in on offense.

Still, the occasional production coupled with the second-most faceoff wins on the team helps Brind’Amour better distribute ice time. Wallmark was on the ice for 14:18, compared to Aho’s 18:08 in the weekend win over Washington. Wallmark was only on the ice for 9:48 in Tuesday’s close win over Montreal, but the Canadiens also committed only two minor penalties, thus limiting Wallmark’s special-teams appearances.

Wallmark is a versatile player capable of contributing in various ways. Scoring isn’t usually what he’ll be asked to do, but the ‘Canes will never mind if he chips in a goal here and there.

Carolina hosts Washington again Friday for the third of seven games in a row at PNC Arena.

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