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Hurricanes: Jesperi Kotkaniemi no longer plays on the power play

At the start of this season, Jesperi Kotkaniemi finally looked like he’d hit his stride. KK had scored 13 points in his first 14 games, and it felt like things were finally clicking for the Finn in the NHL.

At 23, that’s a pretty regular age to see a player break out for good, so it only fueled the idea that the “real Kotkaniemi” had finally arrived.

The problem, though, is that since then, things haven’t been going so well for Kotkaniemi, who now has 16 points in 34 games. For those of you doing the math at home, that’s three points in 20 games, quite a rout for a guy who was scoring close to a point a game at the start of the campaign.

And it would seem that, beyond the points, people in Carolina are starting to get fed up with Kotkaniemi. At least, as Simon-Olivier Lorange of La Presse points out, Kotkaniemi hasn’t even been playing on the power play for a few games now.

The club plays with eight forwards on both waves, but Kotkaniemi isn’t there. Guys like Stefan Noesen and Jack Drury have outright stolen his spot.

So, tomorrow night, the Canadiens will face a Kotkaniemi who has slowed down considerably… but more importantly, a Kotkaniemi who is playing less and less.

KK played 16:30 in his team’s last game before the Christmas break, but in each of the previous five games, he never spent more than 14:05 on the ice in a single game. And in three of those games, he played 11:18, 11:09 and 10:08, playing time usually reserved for fourth-trio guys.

In reality, he’s still playing in the middle of the second line alongside Michael Bunting and Martin Necas, but his two trio-mates are necessarily playing more than he is, given that they play on the power play.

At the same time, it’s hard to blame Rod Brind’Amour: no regular Hurricanes forward has scored fewer points than Kotkaniemi in his last 20 games. It’s understandable that he wanted to take the Finn off the power play.

We’ll see if Kotkaniemi will eventually be able to bounce back, but a duel against the Habs could be a good way to motivate him to take his game up a notch. In his career, Kotkaniemi has scored three points in five games against his former team.

In bursts

– I still doubt it. You never know, though.

– Macklin Celebrini impresses at CMJ…

– Tim Stützle was happy to see Germany beat Finland at the WJC.

– Isiah Kiner-Falefa: a flavorless signing that was unnecessary in Toronto.

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