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After the First Five

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
After playing their fifth game of the 2015-16 regular season in D.C. on Saturday night, the Carolina Hurricanes returned home to Raleigh for a couple of practice days before jet-setting on the second leg of their seven-game road swing.

Here is a smattering of notes from today’s skate, plus a look ahead at the upcoming week.

1. The Hurricanes earned their first and only win thus far in the 2015-16 campaign in Detroit on Friday night. It was an all-around team effort that followed many of the same script beats as the team’s home opener against the same Red Wings, except for this time, the Hurricanes capitalized early and often and were able to stave off Detroit’s push back in a 5-3 victory.

“The effort was there Saturday, but the goals didn’t find their way to the back of the net. Tonight they did," Eric Staal said after Friday’s game. "Credit to the guys to step up and show what kind of group we’re going to have this year. We’re going to be honest, look-in-the-mirror type of team. We obviously didn’t like the way we played against Florida, and we responded with a great effort tonight.”

A night later in the nation’s capital, the Capitals bested the Hurricanes 4-1. As unbalanced as that final score may seem, the Canes did only trail by a goal heading into the third period. They also had an opportunity to even the score in the second period with 38 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage but could not convert.

Ultimately, it was a waste of a stellar goaltending performance by Cam Ward. Late in the second period, Ward put together a particularly noteworthy sequence. The first save was a classic pad stack on Marcus Johnasson, as Ward flashed both pillows to kick away the Caps’ scoring bid. Shortly after, Evgeny Kuznetsov fed T.J. Oshie with a no-look pass from behind the net, but Ward snuffed that opportunity with a phenomenal glove save at point-blank range.

“You’ve got to hang in and hang around. We did that. On the 5-on-3, if we get on there, it’s a little bit different,” Peters said. “Instead, all of a sudden it’s 3-1 on the power play and then 4-1. I thought Wardo gave us a chance to steal one, and we didn’t do enough in front of him to do that.”

2. With this past weekend in mind – both in an individual assessment of the games and an overall takeaway – what’s to make of the team moving forward? Peters said it’s decision time.

“You’ve got to get some answers. We have a decision to make on how we want to play each and every night,” he said. “We have the ability to play with skill and tempo. That’s how we want to play. Now we have to be able to go out on the road and do it, we have to be able to do it at home and we have to be able to do it on back-to-back nights. It’s decision-making time prior to getting out on this trip.”

3. I asked Peters what has impressed him most about his team’s first five games of the season. He paused before breaking down the difference in the way the Canes play on good and bad nights.

“When we’re playing well, we’re able to get four lines going, we have the puck a lot, we seem to shoot and stay on it and we have the ability to break teams down in the defensive zone,” he explained. “When we’re not moving and not skating, we don’t have that same intensity and we look sluggish.”

It’s that perplexing inconsistency – for example, Friday night in Detroit to Saturday night in Washington – that needs to be resolved, Peters said.

“You’ve got to wonder why. It’s really up to us, individually, to make the decision to do it right every shift, every night. Then collectively, as a group, we stay with it,” he said. “There are times you have to build a game when you’re not perfect, but you’ve got to be willing to do the things you need to do to build a game. There are no shortcuts, no secrets to success. If we get our head wrapped around that, we’ll be fine.”

4. Riley Nash returned to practice today, joining the Canes on the ice in a yellow, no-contact sweater. If he responds well, he could be in a regular player jersey as early as Tuesday, according to Peters.

Meanwhile, Joakim Nordstrom remained out of practice with a lower-body concern. Both players traveled with the Canes over the weekend and will likely hit the road with the team again this week.

For now, the Canes lineup will remain constant.

5. And that’s fine, because Brock McGinn turned in an impressive first two games in the NHL. Never mind his first NHL game; how about his first NHL shift? The 21-year-old winger banged home a rebound 27 seconds after putting skate to ice for the first time in an NHL regular-season game, which gave the Hurricanes an early 1-0 lead.

Indeed, it was a debut to remember.

“He’s been good. He deserves to stay,” Peters said, adding that McGinn would travel with the team out West. “I thought he was real good in Detroit and did some good things. He’s a versatile player with a bright future.”

6. The Hurricanes practice again at Raleigh Center Ice on Tuesday at 11 a.m. before an early afternoon flight out to Denver.

“It’s just a five-gamer now,” Peters said of the road trip. “We’re looking forward to getting out there. It’s going to be good. We’re playing some good teams out on the west coast, and then we come back into our conference.”

Michael Smith
MICHAEL SMITH is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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