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Carolina Hurricanes

Friday, June 22, 2012

Will Staal have a stall next to Staal?

Posted by on Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 5:00 AM

Even though the Triangle is finally getting its full summer swelter on, and the only ice on your mind has beer bottles nestled down into it, it's time to talk hockey.

As the National Hockey League entry draft begins on Friday night in Pittsburgh, trade rumors are flying and the Carolina Hurricanes are right in the thick of them. Scorers are in play and deals seem imminent. Caniacs, keep your sports radio on at the pool or beach this weekend.

Could Jordan Staal become a Carolina Hurricane today? Maybe. Definitely maybe.
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Could Jordan Staal become a Carolina Hurricane today? Maybe. Definitely maybe.
First, to backtrack for a moment, general manager Jim Rutherford encouraged such anticipation and rumor-mongering in his exit interview with the press in Raleigh in early April, just after the Canes' season ended with another playoff miss.

"Patience isn't fun when you're not meeting your goals," he said, going on to state that the team would be actively looking to bring on a top-line scoring forward. Rutherford took pains to specify his interest in a "first-tier" player, rather than bargain alternatives like Alexei Ponikarovsky and Anthony Stewart, whom he signed last offseason. Let's just say that they didn't impress.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hockey playoffs becoming violent farce

Posted by on Wed, Apr 18, 2012 at 6:10 PM

It’s safe to say that I’m thankful the Carolina Hurricanes didn’t make the playoffs this season. In fact, that’s about the only thing that’s safe about the National Hockey League right now.

Coming home after a poetry reading last night—the fire and brimstone fury of Amiri Baraka—I flipped on the television to catch whatever first-round playoff action might be on. The eight opening series of the Stanley Cup tournament are the bounty that every hockey fan has been anticipating for months. Regardless of the match-ups, you tune in because this is what hockey is all about. The quest for the Cup. Cue the trumpet fanfare and roll the footage of hockey’s silver grail turning slowly in a spotlight.

But as my television screen came to life from darkness, I didn’t see the graceful action of game play. No skaters darting about like a school of fish to contest the puck. No goalies flashing their pads or gloving point shots.

Catch NHL playoff fever! Marian Hossa was carted off the ice Tuesday night.
  • YouTube
  • Catch NHL playoff fever! Marian Hossa was carted off the ice Tuesday night.
I saw Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa, prone and bound to a board, being lifted onto a stretcher. I saw paramedics strapping orange foam wedges around his head to immobilize it for his ambulance ride to the hospital.

And I saw Phoenix forward Raffi Torres looking like the cat that ate the canary—or in this case, the Coyote that concussed the Blackhawk—sitting on the bench, unpenalized, waiting for his next shift.

Soon the replays came, from every available angle, both in slow motion and at game speed. At center ice, Hossa touches the puck on to a teammate, skates a half stride, then curls a tight pirouette. As Hossa comes out of the turn, Torres rockets into view at tremendous speed, leaps at Hossa, leading with his shoulder, thrusting his shoulder upward as a soccer player would to head a ball.

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  • Pin It
    The Carolina Hurricanes are sitting out the N.H.L. playoffs again this year. Thank goodness.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why you should catch a Canes game this weekend

Posted by on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 6:03 PM

RALEIGH, NC—When a team is mathematically eliminated from the National Hockey League playoffs, newspapers put a lower-case “e” in front of the team’s name in the NHL standings.

The Carolina Hurricanes don’t have their “e” yet, but somewhere a typesetter has taken it out of the drawer and polished its leaden face.

The scarlet letter might be Hurricanes red, but theres still some hockey to be played this year.
  • The scarlet letter might be Hurricanes red, but there's still some hockey to be played this year.
It’s just a matter of hours before the Canes join the Hester Prynne Division that has been accumulating members over the last week. Despite the fact that Carolina has posted one of the better records in the league since new calendars were hung on kitchen walls throughout the Triangle, their season is ostensibly over after a couple of road losses last weekend in Columbus and Detroit. It’s the same result as last season—close at the end, but no playoffs.

Still, there are five games left, including home games Friday and Saturday against Winnipeg and New Jersey, and there are good reasons to go to them.

A win over the Jets on Friday would leapfrog the Canes into third in the Southeast Division. Although this isn’t much consolation for missing the playoff cut, it’s something worth acknowledging. Carolina’s been in the division’s basement almost all year. Beat Winnipeg and they tromp up the stairs to the guest bedroom.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Canes won't go away, drop Panthers for fourth straight win

Posted by on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 4:02 AM

PNC ARENA, RALEIGH—I am skilled, as it turns out, at avoiding jinxes.

In order to snap my team out of a bad stretch of play in a game, I can sense just when to change clothing or turn my jersey inside-out. To fend off a favorite player’s injury in his first game back after a long concussion absence, I recently ate a hard-boiled egg while doing a handstand, knowing that such an absurd act would prompt the hockey gods to protect his noggin from further harm.

Calm and confident, Cam Ward just missed a shutout against the Panthers.
And I especially know that even the slightest breath devoted to counting chickens before they hatch is the worst kind of jinx possible, almost guaranteeing that one’s hopes will not come to fruition. Rather than fluffy peeps, one would get an omelet.

How, then, to approach the description of the Carolina Hurricanes’ 3-1 victory Wednesday night over the division-leading Florida Panthers? The primary storyline of this, the Canes’ fourth straight win, is obvious: the team’s now only five points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with eight games remaining in the regular season. But, surely, even mentioning the playoffs at such a fragile moment would be a terrible jinx.

The Canes would essentially have to win out the rest of their schedule and hope for each of Washington, Winnipeg, and the streaking Buffalo Sabres to drop at least half their remaining games. Breathe a word about that and its mathematical possibility tumbles off the skate blade it’s balanced on. No jinx.

After all, there are plenty of other secondary storylines to yammer about after this win.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

After All-Star break, Canes look to the future

Posted by on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 3:20 PM

Before you click away elsewhere, take a quick look at the Carolina Hurricanes’ roster. And, as you read it, refresh the page a few times. Chances are fair that it might change before your eyes.

The trade deadline approacheth.

Tuomo Ruutu, seen here in a December game versus Buffalo, might not be a Cane much longer.
  • Photo by Peggy Boone
  • Tuomo Ruutu, seen here in a December game versus Buffalo, might not be a Cane much longer.
One name will stay for certain. Earlier today, blueliner Tim Gleason inked a four-year contract extension for the Canes—essentially inheriting the terms and dollars that went off the books when flop-tacular Tomas Kaberle was catapulted to Montreal in early December.

Another name might vanish though. I’m actually hurrying to write this and get it posted before something happens. General manager Jim Rutherford, between presumed gulps of an energy drink, could be typing up his third press release of the day right now. In addition to the Gleason announcement, Riley Nash was recalled today from the Charlotte Checkers. Sure, not a big deal. It’s Nash’s second cup of coffee this season. And he’s probably just taking the spot that Zac Dalpe vacated when he was sent down a week ago.

But it could also foreshadow a roster forward’s departure, possibly Tuomo Ruutu, whose contract expires at the end of the season. Ruutu leads the Canes with 15 goals and has been playing his guts out for months. Any team with hopes of going deep in the playoffs would love to have his mix of grit and skill.

Unfortunately, the Canes are not one of those teams.

This past weekend’s National Hockey League All-Star break provides the last pause before the spring playoff rush. It’s a time for teams to take stock of where they are in the standings, to decide if their play thus far merits improving their rosters before the Feb. 27 trading deadline or if they should dump pending unrestricted free agents for draft picks and prospects. In short, it is when teams become either buyers or sellers.

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  • Pin It
    Tim Gleason signed a four-year deal today. As for Tuomo Ruutu, seen here ... tick, tock, tick, tock.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Samson's first career goal can't save Canes

Posted by on Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 7:04 AM

RBC CENTER, RALEIGH—Jussi Jokinen fished the puck out of the net. With a flick of Jerome Samson’s wrist, the two-dollar disk had instantly become the most valuable object in the rink.

Stepping over vanquished Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, Jokinen delivered the puck to Samson who, called up from the Charlotte Checkers Monday night, had just scored his first NHL goal.

Cam Wards 35 saves werent enough Tuesday as the Canes lost to Philadelphia, 2-1.
  • Photo by Peggy Boone
  • Cam Ward's 35 saves weren't enough Tuesday as the Canes lost to Philadelphia, 2-1.
Samson’s icebreaker was the only one by the Carolina Hurricanes in a 2-1 loss to the visiting Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, but it turned a routine tally in the "L" column into a memorable night.

The ritual goes like this. Even as the goal horn is sounding, a veteran teammate retrieves the puck. He gives it to the breathless scorer after the on-ice hugs have finished. Handling the puck like a lump of radiant plutonium, the scorer tilts it gently into the cupped palms of one of the trainers on the bench. Quickly, a stripe of athletic tape is wrapped around the otherwise anonymous puck so it doesn’t get mixed up and lost. In shaky capital letters, the trainer writes the scorer’s name and “first NHL goal” around the puck’s equator with a magic marker.

“It took longer than I thought,” Samson noted calmly with the slight lilt of a French-Canadian. “I’ve been scoring in the AHL for the last couple of years.”

“I’ve been waiting a long time—four or five months. I came here in training camp with the mentality of making this team right off the bat. It didn’t happen. So I went down [to Charlotte] and did what I had to do. And I finally got the call last night. It was a long drive—two-and-a-half hours, by myself. The butterflies were already starting last night. But as I stepped on the ice, it was still the same game, so I just tried to do my things out there.”

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  • Pin It
    With a flick of Jerome Samson’s wrist, the two-dollar puck instantly became the most valuable object in the rink.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's capitulations: Canes succumb to Isles

Posted by on Wed, Jan 4, 2012 at 5:14 AM

RBC CENTER, RALEIGH—When you hang a fresh January on the kitchen wall and toss the old calendar in the trash, you hope that the forgettable parts of the old year somehow go in the landfill too.

But in their 2012 debut, the Carolina Hurricanes look agonizingly the same as they did in 2011. Giving up leads instead of building on them. Hoping the other team won’t score rather than ensuring it. And losing.

Chad LaRoses late third-period goal gave the Canes hope, but he couldnt save them in the shootout as Carolina fell to the Islanders 4-3 on a frosty Raleigh night.
  • Photo by Al Drago
  • Chad LaRose's late third-period goal gave the Canes hope, but he couldn't save them in the shootout as Carolina fell to the Islanders 4-3 on a frosty Raleigh night.
The Canes lost their first game of the new year in a shootout Tuesday night, 4-3 to the New York Islanders, who had come into the game tied with Carolina in the Eastern Conference’s basement. When Evgeni Nabokov sticked away Chad LaRose’s final rush, the Isles left the Canes alone in that basement, ambling up the rickety steps toward the ground floor.

John Tavares assisted on all three regulation goals for the Isles, including a magical pass to Kyle Okposo to tie the game with 90 seconds left. Nabokov out-dueled Cam Ward in the shootout, allowing only Jussi Jokinen’s first-round goal before shutting down Eric Staal and LaRose.

Anthony Stewart, Brandon Sutter, and LaRose notched goals for the Canes, who lost leads of 2-1 and 3-2. Ward compiled 33 saves but let in two of three shootout attempts.

There weren’t many butts in the seats at the start of this one on a frigid Raleigh weeknight. The clacks of passed pucks on stick blades, if not their echoes, were clearly audible up on press row. The players somnambulated out of their tunnels as well, but they woke up quickly as both teams tallied in the first four minutes and change.

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  • Pin It
    The Canes summoned hope rather than will, and that hope was dashed by the New York Islanders in a come-from-behind, 4-3 shootout decision.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Overtime is Staal's time

Posted by on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 9:39 PM

RBC CENTER, RALEIGH—A month ago, the Canes would have folded. But in the last home game of the year, they didn't. And the captain led the way.

Eric Staal, seen here earlier this season against Ottawa, scored twice and added an assist to lead the Canes over Toronto in the last home game of a largely forgettable 2011.
  • Photo by Al Drago
  • Eric Staal, seen here earlier this season against Ottawa, scored twice and added an assist to lead the Canes over Toronto in the last home game of a largely forgettable 2011.
Undaunted by two early third-period goals by the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Hurricanes stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to push the game to overtime. Eric Staal scored a goal and created another for Zac Dalpe before firing in the winner in the 64th minute of play to give Carolina a 4-3 win.

"It was all about our leadership tonight. Sutter, Staal, and Ward—those guys," coach Kirk Muller noted after the comeback win. "Staal was the best player on the ice tonight and there are a lot of people in our room who are happy for him."

Staal has labored through a miserable season, skating under high expectations that seemed many nights to weigh quite literally on his shoulders. His final line against Toronto reads two goals, an assist, and five shots on goal—a dominant, and perhaps emergent, game. But the truth is that he's been reassembling his game one piece at a time for more than a month now, and finding his way onto the scoresheet more consistently over the last two weeks. He started in the face-off circle, worked harder backchecking and fighting for pucks in the corners and, buoyed by occasional stints as a winger rather than a center, started showing flashes of speed and creativity in the offensive zone.

Staal's breakaway snapshot goal midway through the third period may have snapped the last piece of his game into place.

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    A month ago, the Canes would have folded. But in the last home game of the year, they didn't. And the captain led the way.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pens' onslaught sinks Canes

Posted by on Wed, Dec 28, 2011 at 8:29 AM

FSN SOUTH (TV)—Justin Peters has some new bruises.

Chad LaRoses second borderline penalty of the night let the Penguins break through Justin Peters desperation goaltending in the third period of a 4-2 Pittsburgh win.
  • Photo by Al Drago
  • Chad LaRose's second borderline penalty of the night let the Penguins break through Justin Peters' desperation goaltending in the third period of a 4-2 Pittsburgh win.
In his first start of the season in net, Peters faced 52 shots from the Pittsburgh Penguins, holding them to just one goal through two tied periods. But the game is three periods long, and the Penguins broke it open early in the final frame to push their win streak to four games before a sellout crowd in the Steel City, 4-2.

Carolina, which had beaten the New Jersey Devils the night before on Boxing Day in Raleigh, saw its modest win streak halted at two games. But Cam Ward, who sat out the second half of the back-to-back games in Pittsburgh, still has a goal-scoring streak. The last Canes player to touch the puck before Ilya Kovalchuk's desperation pass skittered all the way down the ice into his team's empty net, Ward became the first goalie in franchise history—and just the tenth in league history—to be credited with a goal.

But even that kind of luck wouldn't have helped the Canes in Pittsburgh. Steve Sullivan's power-play goal 1:18 into the third broke a 1-1 tie, and Pascal Dupuis scored 70 seconds later for a lead the Canes couldn't surmount. Mustering only 18 shots on Marc-Andre Fleury, Carolina looked like a team that had played elsewhere the night before, facing a team that had enjoyed two off-nights at home.

Tim Brent and Tuomo Ruutu notched goals for the Canes, extending Ruutu's goal streak to three games. James Neal and Jordan Staal also scored for the Penguins.

Neal, who potted his 21st, is just one goal off the league lead. Two assists by Neal's linemate Evgeni Malkin put him just two points off the league scoring lead. With Chris Kunitz, they harried the Canes all night.

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  • Pin It
    Justin "Ouch" Peters succumbed in the third period as the Penguins out-shot the Canes 52-18 to win 4-2 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Canes enjoy a holiday win over Senators

Posted by on Sat, Dec 24, 2011 at 11:01 AM

RBC CENTER, RALEIGH—Cam Ward was talking, but you couldn’t hear what he was saying.

GOOOOOOAL! Carolina deserved this celebration after a 2-1 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators on Christmas Eve Eve.
  • Photo by Al Drago
  • GOOOOOOAL! Carolina deserved this celebration after a 2-1 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators on Christmas Eve Eve.
“Get your ice cold beer! Peanuts! We got your hot dogs here!” A sonorous voice boomed up the locker room hallway. A teammate hollering a busker’s patter just to enjoy its echo off the painted cinderblock walls.

“Clearly, the guys are excited,” deadpanned the unflappable goalie.

The Hurricanes gave themselves an early Christmas present Friday night, topping the Ottawa Senators 2-1 on an overtime goal from Tuomo Ruutu. Ward, despite hardly seeing action for the first half of the contest, maintained his trademark calm to stop 22 shots.

But his teammates weren’t calm. They were laughing and shouting and joyful. And beneath that, relieved.

This game could have been a repeat of Wednesday’s emotional sinkhole, in which the Phoenix Coyotes overturned a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 win. As they have on more than a few nights this season, the Canes went into a shell the moment the Coyotes caught a break. When Carolina failed to dent Ottawa’s goalie Craig Anderson during 1:52 of a two-man advantage in the first period, and then gave up a tying goal to Filip Kuba despite outshooting the Senators 19-6, they could have buckled.

But they didn’t. Not this night. And during a season that hasn’t gone how the Canes had imagined it, that’s worth celebrating.

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    "Peanuts! We got your hot dogs here!” The locker room echoed with joy after the Canes topped Ottawa 2-1 in overtime Friday night.

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