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Mike Maniscalco

Hurricanes begin crucial season against Red Wings

Posted October 4, 2013

— The Carolina Hurricanes start one of the most important campaigns they've had since relocating to the Triangle Friday night when they welcome the Detroit Red Wings (7 p.m., FSN-Carolina, 99.9 FM The Fan) to PNC Arena. 

The team has not made the postseason since the 2008-09 season, and that fact is not lost on the organization or the fans.

The word ‘playoffs’ has been said frequently in the preseason with coaches and players, but the road to get there has been made more difficult thanks to a move to the newly-created Metropolitan Division.

Out are the Florida teams and Winnipeg, and in come the Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Penguins, Flyers and Blue Jackets.

That is like going from Baltic Avenue to Boardwalk, with heavy-hitters and big spenders moving into the neighborhood.

The Eastern Conference had another big upgrade in the offseason by adding the Detroit Red Wings, who the Hurricanes will face twice more after Friday's opener.   Canes Canes will face better opponents in new division

While these outside factors will impact the team, it is the changes inside the walls of the PNC Arena that will determine if hockey will be played past April 13 this year.

General Manager Jim Rutherford stressed at the exit meetings this summer that his team needed to improve on defense, and he didn’t waste much time trying to do that.

At the NHL Draft, the team acquired Andrej Sekera from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for offensive-minded Jamie McBain.

On the first day of free agency, the team signed goalie Anton Khudobin to back up Cam Ward and then added Mike Komisarek to bulk up the blue line.

The organization announced the loss of Joni Pitkanen due to a heel injury, but quickly followed that news with the signing of steady veteran Ron Hainsey.

There was not a major addition to the forward ranks, which puts aded pressure on the top line of Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty to duplicate the production that made the trio one of the top lines in the NHL last season.

Semin missed a majority of camp with a wrist injury and Tlusty was slowed at the start of camp with an ‘upper body’ concern, but that line should be able to keep up with the pace set a year ago.

Nathan Gerbe was the surprise of camp, earning a spot on the second line. Gerbe signed as a free agent on a two-way deal and made the most of his opportunity and in the preseason. He's now part of a potent line with Jordan Staal and Patrick Dwyer.

The consistent Dwyer and fiery Gerbe seem to be the compliment for Jordan Staal’s game that the coaching staff was looking for last season.

The postseason prospects for the Hurricanes aren't dependent on the stars as much as how the third and fourth lines come together.

Heading into the season opener there are still many moving parts to this puzzle.

If Jeff Skinner can perform like he did three season ago, the third line could become one that other teams must fear. Drayson Bowman and Riley Nash have a hand in how effective this group will be in the early going and both should be ready to take a step forward in their pro careers.

Rookie Elias Lindholm was beset by injuries as well this camp, and the team is not quite ready to make him the center of the third line as they had envisioned when he was picked No. 5 overall in the draft.  

The early tests won’t be easy.

The Hurricanes open the season with Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, Los Angeles, Phoenix and the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks, a tough gauntlet to run at any point of the year.

This stretch might not be the determining factor in Carolina’s final grade, but it will give a good handle on the work the team needs to do to get to the top of the division and return to the postseason.

16 Comments

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  • scorekeep Oct 4, 4:54 p.m.

    Crucial the team make the playoffs.

  • mojaintsmall Oct 4, 4:01 p.m.

    New year, same dump of a facility, same band wagon fans, the place will be morgue by mid November with if they are lucky a 1/4 of the seats having a body in them.

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh Oct 4, 3:41 p.m.

    To those of you who want Cam gone, you're delusional. It'll never happen. However, for those... View More

    — Posted by jdpridg

    I like Cam, but it is good to see that they have a backup who wants to be the top dog between the pipes. The competition will be good, and this way Cam doesn't have to play as many games. Go Canes!

  • jdpridg Oct 4, 2:54 p.m.

    To those of you who want Cam gone, you're delusional. It'll never happen. However, for those like me who want him on a shared time rotation, I have good news. I met the back up recently and let me tell you. He has no interest in being a back up. This guy has drive and is ready to show the people here that he belongs in the net. I can only hope he can back up his talk.

  • caniacman Oct 4, 2:06 p.m.

    With the CBA 1 year deals are going to be the norm rather then the exception except for the super star players. That is the only way the teams will have cap space year in and year out. The big names will get the max deals, the next group those 2-4 year deals and everyone else will be 1 year deals. This is not just a Canes thing, look at the amount of 1 year deals this year league wide. If and when the cap goes up that might change but for this year and next you will see a lot of 1 year deals.

  • lec02572 Oct 4, 1:32 p.m.

    When you fill so many spot on the roster with 1 year contracts, its going to be hard to make the playoffs with a rent a team. Good luck. If they get off to their usually slow start, new coach by December 1st.

  • Wags Oct 4, 1:28 p.m.

    Boy, a bunch of fair weather fans on here. Let the team start winning and you will be back on the band wagon. Find another team to trash. We don't need you.

  • HockeyPlayerX Oct 4, 12:22 p.m.

    " Jim Rutherford stressed at the exit meetings this summer that his team needed to improve on defense" ... Yep, keep scapegoating the defense, and keep ignoring the goaltending. Great way to end up missing the playoffs yet again. I was really happy that Cam Ward came through in the 06' post season. That was awesome to see. But honestly, he is the worst thing that has ever happened to this team. JR's inability to admit that Ward is not the golden child they thought he was just leads to more and more failure...and ultimately, unless something drastic changes, will likely be the demise of this market. Thanks JR.

  • KT lols at kerliner football Oct 4, 11:53 a.m.

    what does crucial mean..that they might move if not enough folks show up to watch...

    — Posted by rushbot

    I keep seeing a midnight move to somewhere like....Cleveland or Witchita

    — Posted by I am not who you think I am

    Nah Cleveland can't support an NHL team. Columbus is barely holding on to their team. No reason to put another team in the same state.

  • I am not who you think I am Oct 4, 11:49 a.m.

    what does crucial mean..that they might move if not enough folks show up to watch...

    — Posted by rushbot

    I keep seeing a midnight move to somewhere like....Cleveland or Witchita

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