Lost amid the talk about Eric Staal's run of points and Cam Ward's saves and the Canes' resurgence under Kirk Muller has been some players more quietly putting together solid seasons.
Tim Brent, to name one.
The forward, signed to a two-year contract in July, has 12 goals and 24 points -- both career highs -- in 74 games in his first season with Carolina. Used mostly as the Canes' fourth-line center, Brent also has been shifted to other lines during games under Muller while getting significant power-play time at the point.
"You know how I coach, if someone's not going (in a game) someone will move up, and he's been up at right wing, at center," Muller said today. "He's always ready to play. He's quarterbacked our power play. Because of that he's stayed in the lineup and he's been an important part of some games for us this year."
Brent, 28, has averaged almost 11 minutes in ice time per game and been a key component of the Canes' penalty killers. Of his 12 goals, three have been game-winners and his shooting percentage (18.5) is the highest on the team.
"I think I've kind of slid into a role and understand what it is," Brent said. "It's about being confident and being comfortable, and I feel more comfortable now.
"For me, since the (coaching) change, my minutes have gone up and I've had more responsibility. As a hockey player, and everyone would tell you the same thing, that's what you want. You want to be out there at crucial times of the games and make a difference."
A native of Cambridge, Ontario, Brent made a difference Saturday in Toronto, scoring a goal as the Canes blanked the Maple Leafs 3-0. That the victory came close to home, that it came against his old team, had Brent tweeting after the game, "Have to admit -- that one felt pretty sweet."
Signed as a free agent by the Leafs in July 2009, Brent played mostly for the Marlies (AHL) the next season, being called up for one NHL game. He then played 79 games for the Leafs last season, notching eight goals and 20 assists.
Brent said when the Leafs traded Tomas Kaberle to the Boston Bruins at the NHL deadline last season, he took over Kaberle's spot at the point on the power play. The Leafs had some success, Brent said, against the Montreal Canadiens, whose penalty kill was being handled by Muller, then a Habs assistant.
"I think that's where Kirk probably saw me," Brent said, smiling. "I had done it before in my career, in the minors and last year, so it was nothing new. At the same time it's always a challenge and always fun."
Muller noted some players can "make a living and stay in the league by being versatile" and being flexible, able to fill different roles and play different positions. Brent, he said, is a good example.
Brent, in turn, believes he can improve his play, and his numbers next season.
"Everywhere I've played I've kind of gotten better every year," he said. "That's what my goal is, to do better every year. When you hit that plateau, it's not long after that when you're hanging the skates up."