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The Other Side - Stempniak thriving in Carolina

Lee Stempniak is leading his new team in scoring and providing leadership to a young Hurricanes locker room

by Torie Peterson @ToriePeterson / CalgaryFlames.com

CALGARY, AB -- This isn't Lee Stempniak's first rodeo.

His resume features 793 regular season games, 187 goals, 238 assists, and a 425 points. He's dressed for 28 playoff games, posting six points in his postseason appearances.

He has played for 10 teams over the course of his National Hockey League career, making stops in St. Louis, Toronto, Arizona, Calgary, Pittsburgh, New York, Winnipeg, New Jersey, Boston, and now North Carolina.

But Calgary holds a special place in the 33-year-old's heart.

Stempniak spent parts of three seasons in Calgary, scoring 31 goals and 63 points in 160 games.

"It's fun. Before I played in Calgary, I always liked playing in the Saddledome from (the time) when I was a rookie in St. Louis," he said after the Hurricanes' pre-game skate. "It's a great atmosphere. It's a great building.

"It's always fun to play against your friends. Some of my best friends in the game are Mark Giordano and Matt Stajan. To be able to compete against them and see them, it's always fun."

The veteran has been able to find instant success with the Hurricanes, who he signed a two-year pact with in the off-season. Earning a spot on Carolina's top line, Stempniak is currently leading his team in scoring with three goals and five points through their opening three games.

"Here in Carolina, I've played with two very good players right from start - (Jeff) Skinner and (Victor) Rask. We've found some chemistry and it's been good."

Stempniak has been able to carry over momentum from his 2015-16 campaign. He split the season between the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins, amassing 19 goals and 51 points.

Refreshing his off-season training, he stated, has been key to his success.

"The last two years, I've felt really good. I've changed the way I trained a little bit, before last season, just focusing on moving a little bit better," he explained. "Being healthy but moving efficiently, moving better, rather than just doing a ton of weights and a ton of conditioning. It's paid off. I feel pretty good. I started doing pilates last summer. That's helped. It's all sort of been integrated by Matt Nichol, who I train with.

"I feel great. I feel last year was probably the best I felt, maybe my entire career, in terms of quality how you feel during the whole season."

Video: Ex-Flame Lee Stempniak discusses playing Calgary

That emphasis on building speed meshes perfectly with a Hurricanes squad that is filled with quick, young skaters. Stempniak is just one of five players 30 years or older on Carolina roster. The Hurricanes boast the third youngest roster in the league, with an average age of 25.909 years.

While they can't necessarily lean on experience, they have plenty of talent, speed and youth at their disposal. 

"We've got defencemen that move the puck, they all skate well, they all defend well ... they all transition the puck well. We have talented forwards, we've got skilled forwards, and quick forwards. For us, the emphasis is playing to our strengths - trying to hang onto the puck, make sure we're playing well in transition. Moving the puck well really accentuates the talent in this group."

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