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Around the East: Hurricanes' Maurice pleased

Tuesday, 10.26.2010 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Around the East: Hurricanes' Maurice pleased
All things considered, Carolina coach Paul Maurice is content with how his team fared along its nearly 16,000 mile journey to its first home game of the season.
All things considered, Carolina coach Paul Maurice is content with how his team fared along its nearly 16,000 mile journey to its first home game of the season.

"We came out of it more confident than we went in," Maurice, whose team is 4-3, told NHL.com Monday. "There is optimism and confidence being built."

The Hurricanes will become the last team to play a real home game this season when the Washington Capitals come to RBC Center on Wednesday.

Technically, Carolina's season-opener in Helsinki was considered a home game, but we all know it was anything but that despite the 300-plus "Caniacs" that paid top dollar to see both games against Minnesota in Finland. After playing two in Helsinki, the 'Canes went on a five-game road trip to play in Ottawa, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

They dropped the first two games by a combined 8-3, but closed with three strong efforts against the Sharks, Kings and Coyotes and a pair of wins, including Saturday's overtime thriller in Arizona that sent them home on a high after being on the road for 11 straight days following a quick four-day respite after returning home from Finland.

"That was an important win to come back over .500," Maurice said. "I think we had a lot of adversity with that travel and had a couple of tough games in Ottawa and Van, but we bounced back. I felt like on the 18th the guys looked like they had made the adjustment to the time, and that in San Jose, L.A. and Phoenix we looked a lot like the team that played against Minny. There was more jump and more talk on the bench."

Maurice was worried after the losses to Ottawa and Vancouver.

"You worry can we recover here?" he said. "It really wasn't are we good enough; it was more are we going to be able to physically withstand this? Can we physically and mentally survive this trip? Or, with the big chunk of games we have coming back off this trip, are we going to be in a real big problem? We could have been in a real big hole."

They're not, largely because they picked up those two wins against the Wild overseas. But, don't for a second think things are getting easier for the Hurricanes. If anything, they might just be getting harder.

Starting with Wednesday's game against the Caps, Carolina plays seven games in 11 nights and never twice in a row in the same city. The Capitals, Rangers, Penguins, Flyers, surprising Islanders and Panthers (twice) are all on the schedule.

"We're back on the treadmill," Maurice said. "I thought if we can get through 14 (games) and be above .500 that we'd be in pretty darn good shape. We're in position to do that now. You are always looking to say, 'Man, we can be 5-2 with a break here and a break there,' but we'll take the breaks we got so far."

Now let's go around the Eastern Conference. The teams are listed in order of where they are in the standings:

1.
 Montreal Canadiens (5-2-1, 11 points)

The Habs started Monday seventh in the East, but by the end of the evening they were No. 1 due to a 3-2 overtime win against the Coyotes. OK, so it's early and these things happen, but Montreal has won four of its last five. The top line contributed all three goals Monday with Andrei Kostitsyn netting the OT winner after Michael Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec scored in regulation. Better yet, defenseman Andrei Markov should be back this weekend.


2.
 Tampa Bay Lightning (5-2-1, 11 points)

The Lightning don't play again until Wednesday against Pittsburgh. They had their first tough stretch of the season last weekend when they played three games in four nights and went 1-1-1 against the Islanders, Thrashers and Predators. Steven Stamkos continued his torrid start with a hat trick in the 5-2 win over Atlanta on Friday. It was his first hat trick since Feb. 17, 2009 against Chicago. Simon Gagne sat out the last two games because he was ill and he had a stiff neck.


3.
 Pittsburgh Penguins (5-3-1, 11 points)

A 1-0 overtime loss in St. Louis on Saturday snapped a four-game winning streak that saw the Penguins score 17 goals. Brooks Orpik played for the first time since Oct. 9 after sitting out six games with a groin injury. Pittsburgh plays Wednesday in Tampa. Jordan Staal (foot) is inching closer to his season debut, Zbynek Michalek (upper body) is close to returning and Arron Asham should be back Wednesday. Eric Tangradi and Andrew Hutchinson were re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.


4.
 Toronto Maple Leafs (4-2-1, 9 points)

A four-game winning streak has given way to a three-game losing streak. The Leafs have just four goals in losses to the Islanders (overtime), Rangers and Flyers. Philadelphia beat them, 5-2, on Saturday. Toronto was outshot, 40-14, and captain Dion Phaneuf was a minus-3 in only 15 minutes. He's a minus-6 for the season.


5.
 Washington Capitals (5-3-0, 10 points)

The Caps have run hot and cold with five up and three down, but they've battled injuries. Tom Poti, Boyd Gordon, Matt Bradley and Mike Green have missed time, but Semyon Varlamov's apparent groin issues seem to be the most disturbing. He sat out the first five games of the season and after getting his first start in Boston on Thursday he must have re-aggravated it because now he's day-to-day again. Braden Holtby is up with the team now.


6.
 New York Islanders (4-2-2, 10 points)

Their 4-3 loss in Florida snapped a three-game winning streak, which put the Islanders on the list of the League's early-season surprises. The Isles play in Montreal on Wednesday before returning home (to play those same Habs) for their first home game in nearly two weeks. P.A. Parenteau, James Wisniewski and Blake Comeau lead the team with 8 points each.


7.
 New York Rangers (4-2-1, 9 points)

Despite injuries to Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal, the Rangers are winning behind solid goaltending and a strong overall team effort. The proof was there Sunday in their 3-1 win over the Devils when Ryan Callahan finally got his first goal of the season and Henrik Lundqivst made 27 saves the night after he made 35 in Boston.


8.
 Boston Bruins (4-2-0, 8 points)

The B's had their four-game winning streak snapped Saturday against the Rangers. They also lost defenseman Johnny Boychuk to a broken arm. He'll be out for approximately four weeks. Adam McQuaid is expected to make his season debut Thursday against the Maple Leafs. Nathan Horton has been excellent so far with 9 points, including at least one in each game.


9.
 Carolina Hurricanes (4-3-0, 8 points)

The Hurricanes are home from an 11-day road trip that included five games. They went 2-3 on the trip, but they won two of their last three and were close in the third period against Los Angeles. They survived their opening seven games, all away from home, and will open their home slate Wednesday against Washington. Defenseman Brett Carson was sent down to Charlotte of the AHL mainly because the 'Canes want to carry six defensemen when they're home.


10.
 Philadelphia Flyers (3-4-1, 7 points)

The Flyers loss in Columbus on Monday was their fourth in the last five games, but it came on the heels of Saturday's impressive 5-2 win over Toronto, a game in which they outshot the Leafs, 40-14. Following Monday's game coach Peter Laviolette ripped into his team, saying they didn't show up to compete, didn't execute and didn't play with any emotion or energy. At least Philly gets right back at it Tuesday at home against the Sabres.


11.
 Atlanta Thrashers (3-4-1, 7 points)

Similar to the Leafs, a strong start by the Thrashers has given way to a three-game slide. But, the good news is that goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who fainted on the ice on opening night, has been activated off I.R. and will be in uniform Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. Andrew Ladd is off to a strong start with 8 points. He's on a five-game point streak.


12.
 Buffalo Sabres (3-5-1, 7 points)

Ryan Miller was strong, Thomas Vanek scored twice and Rob Niedermayer, Mike Grier, Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe all played well in Buffalo's resounding 6-1 win in Newark, N.J. on Saturday. The Sabres are looking to get on their first winning streak against Philadelphia on Tuesday. The key, Miller said, is to build on what they accomplished in Jersey.


13.
 Florida Panthers (3-3-0, 6 points)

The Panthers, like the Bruins, have played in only six games, and they've won three of their last four after a tough start in Western Canada. They play in all three of the Eastern Canadian cities this week, starting Tuesday in Toronto. David Booth has been a feel-good story so far as he's off to a good start with 3 goals and 3 assists. Tomas Vokoun already has two shutouts.


14.
 Ottawa Senators (2-5-1, 5 points)

The Senators have been outscored, 26-16. There are reports coming out of the city that GM Bryan Murray is already looking to shake things up with a trade, and he said of Alex Kovalev's performance so far, "not very good." Kovalev has 1 assist and is a minus-5 in eight games. The good news is captain Daniel Alfredsson picked up his 1,000th career point over the weekend.


15.
 New Jersey Devils (2-6-1, 5 points)

Coach John MacLean created a League-wide stir Saturday when he benched star forward Ilya Kovalchuk. The Devils lost to Buffalo, 6-1, and fell in New York the next night, 3-1. Kovalchuk had the Devils' only goal at MSG. GM Lou Lamoriello gave MacLean a show of support in an ESPN.com article posted Monday, but many are wondering what will happen if the team continues to struggle on its five-game Western road trip that starts Wednesday in San Jose.


Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

Quote of the Day

It's pretty crazy, but believe me when I say we didn't draft these players with the mindset we had to because they had good hockey-playing dads. It just turned out that way. But we're certainly glad they're a part of our organization.

— Arizona Coyotes director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt regarding the coincidence that six of the organization's top prospects are sons of former NHL players