Muller: We have to believe in ourselves
Posted October 2, 2013
Updated October 3, 2013
The Carolina Hurricanes open their 2013-14 campaign at home Friday against the Detroit Red Wings and head coach Kirk Muller said the team will need to believe in themselves to be successful this season.
"With our team our focus is going to have to be our group," Muller said Wednesday. "To have our identity come out and we have to believe in ourselves. We know there are going to be grinding games going in to places like New York and Philly and Pittsburgh, strong hockey clubs.
"But if we play our game and work on playing well defensively and with our goal tending being strong, we feel that we can walk in and compete with every game. We have the fire power with the elite players up front that can score goals when called upon."
That defense became the focus during the offseason as the team added several key players. Such as defenseman Ron Hainsey, who the Canes signed after losing Joni Pitkanen to injury, and defenseman Mike Komisarek who was signed to a one-year contract after time in Toronto. A draft-day trade between Buffalo and the Hurricanes brought in defenseman Andrej Sekera.
Not only did the Hurricanes add veteran experience to the blue line, but several younger players have moved up in rank from the Charlotte Checkers.
"We're really happy with some of the guys that came in this season ready to compete, they met our expectations and maybe a little bit more," said Muller on the additions.
Former Checker Justin Faulk made his defensive presence known last season and former AHL teammates Bret Bellemore and Ryan Murphy hope to do the same this season.
While the Hurricanes boosted their defense they also took the time to sign another goalie to play alongside Cam Ward.
"[Anton] Khudobin as a goalie is going to give us a real good one-two punch back there with Cam, so we're real excited about our goaltending this year," said Muller. "Both are capable of going in and winning hockey games, in a competitive division and conference, actually the whole season.
"It's important that when you look at your goaltending, with back-to-back games, that you're able to have confidence. Right now I have just as much confidence in either one to go in and get the job down and win hockey games."
As with any club, injuries will take their toll and have struck the Hurricanes early. Alexander Semin (wrist) and Elias Lindholm (upper body) both returned to practice Wednesday. Muller said the team will get confirmation Thursday on whether or not they will be able to play.
"Everything seems positive right now, hopefully these guys will wake up tomorrow and there's no soreness and these guys can continue to progress. And if they do we'll assemble our line-up tomorrow after practice and make sure we have 20 healthy guys ready to go Friday night," said Muller.
Although the injuries kept some off the ice, it did allow others to come in and gain experience in areas they may not have been able to with a healthy roster. It was during this time that Murphy began to emerge as he filled in for Semin on the power play. Muller said that he was really impressive defensively, at such a young age, to come in and take over the 'quarterback' role of the power play.
This season will be the first that the Hurricanes join the new Metropolitan division, facing some steep competition.
"Last year we had a good record against these teams, a lot of people are going 'wow you're heading into a tougher division this season' and it is but really the whole NHL now there's no easy games," Muller said.
Easy game or not, one thing is set heading into Friday night, the first and second lines. Barring any change in status, Semin will join Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty on the first line. Nathan Gerbe, Jordan Staal and Patrick Dwyer will make up the second.