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Canes are "Almost There"

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
One of the evils surrounding the shootout is that a loss can still feel devastating despite a hard-earned point in the standings having already been secured. Wednesday’s game against Pittsburgh was a welcome exception.

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The Canes did enough good things in that contest, namely a Ray Whitney-led two-goal comeback in the third period against the defending Stanely Cup champions, to feel pretty good about themselves the morning after. That’s not to say they would ever settle for anything less than two points, but in the prehistoric pre-shootout world, that would have been one of the so-called “good ties.”

“I don’t think any of us really [felt too bad about it],” said defenseman Tim Gleason. “It was a really good team out there, and we finally played the way we wanted to play. Our forecheck was on, our back-pressure was there and our special teams were good.”

”We’re almost there,” said Coach Paul Maurice of the Canes’ overall play. “There are still some improvements that we’re looking for, but there’s a lot more that the players understand. They’re more attentive in those areas. It was better.”

It didn’t hurt that goaltender Cam Ward made a string of great saves, one of which on Bill Guerin that has to be a save of the year candidate, to help his team come back in the game. Ward said afterwards that he wasn’t thrilled with himself after allowing Evgeni Malkin to score from a sharp-angle in the second period, but his response thereafter should serve as Exhibit A in how he’s matured in recent years.

”He almost doesn’t even show it,” said Gleason of Ward’s emotions during games. “He’s so focused all the time, whether he’s frustrated or playing well, that you don’t even notice the difference.”

”I think he was right not to be excited about [Malkin’s goal], but then I think you almost have to watch the Guerin one a few times to really appreciate how good that one was,” said Maurice.

Please feel free to do so: puts together weekly goals, saves and hits of the week lists, and I would be shocked if that particular save, along with Tuomo Ruutu’s crushing hit on Kris Letang, didn’t put the Canes atop two of those lists in the coming days. I’ll be sure to share when they become available.

Joni Pitkanen practiced with the team on Thursday, marking the first time he’s done so since his early exit from last week’s home victory against
Tampa Bay. Although he says he’s feeling better, he and Maurice both said that they wouldn’t know until tomorrow if real progress has been made.

Eric Staal again sat out practice, just as he did one day prior to the Penguins game. Joining him on the sidelines were Matt Cullen, Cam Ward and Ray Whitney, who presumably all sat out for maintenance reasons. As of right now, I wouldn’t expect any of them to miss game time unless we learn otherwise tomorrow.

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