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Canes Battling Injuries, Consistency

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes returned to Raleigh today for the first time in over a week, back from their four-game Canadian road trip.

Michael Smith
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The Canes went 1-2-1 on the roadie, their longest since the annual October state fair trip. Instead of coming back to North Carolina over the weekend after the game in Winnipeg, the team remained in Toronto, where they had two full days of practice. According to head coach Kirk Muller, last night’s game – a 2-1 overtime loss – is one to build on.

“I thought we executed really well last night,” he said. “It was probably our best overall game [where we played] consistently for 60 minutes.”

Being with the team for two weeks now, Muller said the team has largely moved beyond systems work and into executing that on a consistent basis in search of wins.

“They understand the X’s and O’s of it. So now we’re preaching accountability of doing it every shift,” Muller said. “We’re looking for consistency. I thought last night is a good game to build on that.”

Cam Ward played in just over 30 minutes on Friday in Winnipeg, surrendering four goals on 30 shots. Mike Murphy replaced Ward and played the balance of the game, facing and stopping all of seven shots. Ward responded last night, making 36 saves on 38 shots.

His second-star performance in Toronto earned the Canes a point and gave them a better feeling heading back home.

“He’s had a tough time, he’s a great professional and he hasn’t made any excuses at all,” Muller said of Ward. “He’s a competitor. He really took advantage of the two days in Toronto and re-focused.”

In the last seven games, Ward has faced more than 30 shots five times. The floor in that stretch was 25 shots against, a game that the Canes won 5-3 over the Oilers.

In the next two games, the Canes will face the defending Western Conference Champions and the current Southeast Division leaders in the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers. The Panthers topped the Canes 3-1 in Muller’s coaching debut. Though the Canes have only earned three points since then, Muller likes the direction they are headed.

“As we said the first day, there’s going to be a lot of teaching and a lot of critiquing. It’s the only way we’re going to get better,” he said. “Our guys have been great. They’ve really been receptive. They want to get better. No body wants to lose.”

Skinner and Pitkanen Out Indefinitely

The team announced today that forward Jeff Skinner and defenseman Joni Pitkanen are out indefinitely with concussions. Skinner has missed two games, while Pitkanen has missed three.

This is most certainly a blow to the Hurricanes, as both are top players who play big minutes. Skinner is the team’s leading scorer with 24 points (12g, 12a). Pitkanen leads defensemen in scoring with 12 points (3g, 9a). Before being injured in Calgary, Pitkanen had a four-game point streak, earning an assist in each game after returning from a lower-body injury.

Though not providing a detailed update, Muller said they would continue to monitor Skinner and Pitkanen on a daily basis.

“We’re not naïve on the situation as far as how important it is to get these guys healthy before they get back,” he said.

Harrison Close to Returning

Jay Harrison was one of four defensemen on the ice practicing today. He has missed nine games and did not travel with the team on the road trip. The Canes have gone 1-7-1 with Harrison out of the lineup.

“He’s closer,” Muller said. “If we had a full practice today, chances are he would have been out with the group.”

Before he exited the lineup, Harrison had logged over 20 minutes in 11 of his last 13 games, including the five straight games leading up to his injury. He played a team-high 29:06 in his last game against Montreal on Nov. 23.

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