Posted October 31, 2011
Notes and quotes from Carolina Hurricanes practice.
One month in the books:
The Hurricanes finished October 4-4-3, considering the 0-2-1 start to the season the team put together a respectable 11 points for the month, which has them sitting just outside the top eight in the East.
Head Coach Paul Maurice summed up the first month, “I liked the style of play that we are playing and the understanding of it is good. I liked the games that we’ve won and how we played (in them); I don’t think they were games that we got lucky in. I think with the exception of the Winnipeg game, all of our losses either have been 2-1 or 2-2 going into the middle of the third period or early in the third, so we’ve been in those as well.”
No place like home in November:
The Canes play ten of their fifteen games in the month at the RBC Center. It sets up, at least on paper, a big stretch for the team to try to gain solid position in the top eight of the East. Carolina will need an edge, right now eight of the ten teams have winning records and four of the six division leaders pay a visit to Raleigh (Washington, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Dallas).
Maurice noted that while this month is important, there are a lot of important dates that remain for his hockey club.
“For us playing well at home and being .500 or better on the road is the key," said Maurice. "I don’t know that there is a month that’s not the most critical. It’s always the one ahead of you, the game ahead of you cause that good feeling and consistency in your play is something you are always searching for.”
Carolina went 2-1-1 at home in October with wins over Boston and Chicago, a loss to Tampa and overtime loss to Ottawa.
Zac’s back at practice:
Forward Zac Dalpe, who has missed the last six games with lower body concern returned to group practice, but don’t look for him to return to the lineup immediately. Maurice says there are still some hurdles for him to clear before Dalpe is game ready, "He’s close enough. We’re not doing full on grind drills but he is not far from getting back into full contact and then it’s going to be a condition issue for him.”
“While he has worked hard off the ice to rehab, you have to get on the ice and bang and skate for us to give him the green light,” Maurice added.
Dalpe is a +1 in five games this season.
The Captain is getting quick on the draw:
Eric Staal has picked up his play in the face off circles. A major area of concern for Carolina since Rod Brind’Amour’s retirement is starting to see a major improvement thanks in large part to the former captain, now coach, whose work with the center men on the art of winning a face off is paying off.
Brandon Sutter still leads the team statistically when taking draws with a winning percentage of 52.8, but Staal has been dominant of late. The Captain is 43 of 68, which is 63.2% if you're keeping track.
The team has also scored big goals off of draws the last few games, Tim Brent notched his second goal of the year against Chicago after winning the draw clean to Tim Gleason and deflecting the shot to give Carolina an early lead in that contest. Staal’s biggest face off win lately was on the power play late against Ottawa that set up Jeff Skinner’s game tying goal.
No need to nit-Pitkanen:
Much maligned defenseman Joni Pitkanen is off to a solid start this year, besides being physical, the 27 year old puck moving defenseman has 6 points, a game winning goal and leads the team in ice time averaging 24:17 per contest. One reason why the blue liner has started the year off fast, he’s shed weight from last season.
“I thought he came to camp in very good shape," said Maurice. The coach added that Pitkanen was fairly healthy this off-season, “not a lot of injuries over the course of the summer to deal with, he came in quite a bit leaner. “
One other factor to take into consideration is that Pitkanen is comfortable in Carolina after signing a new deal. Where most athletes can relate to "more money, more problems", Maurice thinks the opposite has happened for the Finnish defenseman.
“I think the confidence of having a contract for him, some guys it works against, I think it worked for him. I think that knowing that he was going to be a big part of our team moving forward helped him.”
Your chocolate is in my peanut butter:
Seeing it is Halloween, I asked assorted team members what is their favorite candy to get when ‘Trick or Treating’? The overwhelming winner: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups receiving 22% of the vote, no other candy received more than two. Of the assorted answers that were given the Canes satisfy their collective sweet tooth with: Twix, Milky Way, Coffee Crisp, Cadbury Caramilk, Caramel Apple Pops, Mars Bar, Aero (which I found out they make a mint Aero Bar north of the border, you’re welcome), Mr. Big, Milk Duds, Starburst, Kit Kat, Turtles, Butterfinger and yes someone actually likes Candy Corn.
Side note: Jiri Tlusty and Alexei Ponikarovsky noted that they didn’t have Halloween growing up in Eastern Europe. Also one second year player, who might or might not be last season’s Rookie of the Year, was rather indecisive on his favorite candy. After saying he didn’t know what his favorite was, he gave an answer that he then retracted.
To find out who likes what candy, you can ask me on twitter @mikemaniscalco even the players that were undecided.