PITTSBURGH -- The Carolina Hurricanes are 4-6-2 under coach Kirk Muller, but have won two straight and are 3-1-1 record in their last five heading into tonight's game with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
So has Muller had time to implement all his systems yet? No.
Is Muller beginning to see measurable improvements up and down his lineup? Yes.
Muller wants the Hurricanes to be a fast-paced, read-and-react team, rather than a sit-back-and-react unit. He likes how his forwards are embracing the up-tempo system, and the energy level they are bringing nightly. That is important to a former player who accumulated 357 goals in 1,349 NHL with the Devils, Canadiens, Islanders, Maple Leafs, Panthers and Stars from 1984-2003.
Muller also likes that he is beginning to see some results that show up in the standings.
"The game today, you've got to skate. We've told the forwards from Day 1 that they're going to have to skate and work hard to play in the system," Muller said. "So we've been skating a little harder in practices. It's no secret. We've been here a little while now, that we're an up-ice team.
We want to challenge and play in your face and hopefully play the game from the red line up rather than sit back."
Muller added, "I just think with the way the game is today, with the speed and skill of everybody, that you've got to play that tempo. That's kind of been the philosophy so far."
Muller believes there is plenty of time for Carolina to move back into playoff contention, especially with the season's midpoint still four games away.
While he never had been a head coach before this season -- he had a 10-6 record with Milwaukee (AHL) before taking over the Hurricanes -- Muller said it hasn't been a problem getting his players to play his way.
Especially when they're a man down; Brandon Sutter's third short-handed goal of the season Monday was the Hurricanes' seventh in 37 games, or one fewer than they scored all last season.
"I think it was easier for the forwards because it took away them thinking … it's just, 'Let's go,'" Muller said. "Get skating, get up ice. I think it was just a matter of retraining them to get their feet moving sometimes. I think it was a little tougher on defense because you got to get the trust factor between the forwards and the (defensemen). You've got forwards pressing hard and the 'D' is trying to stand up wondering who's got the third guy. I think it costs us a few points the first few games, but I can live with that if we learn from it. I think now we're in sync."