Temperatures still might be hovering around freezing in the Triangle, but it certainly doesn’t compare to the blizzard conditions the Carolina Hurricanes experienced in Buffalo in the last couple of days.
The weather situation was so dire – zero visibility, high winds, sub-zero wind chill and plenty of snow to go with it – that the NHL postponed the Canes’ Tuesday night match-up with the Sabres. A make-up date has yet to be decided.
“It’s unfortunate, but it was quite a storm,” head coach Kirk Muller said Wednesday, just about an hour after the Canes escaped snowy Buffalo and landed in Raleigh. “We’re just happy that we finally got out of there and got back here to get ready for our next game.”
The Canes were greeted by cold temperatures, sure, but they were no longer bearing the brunt of the polar vortex.
“It’s a little colder, but it’s nice to see the sun after the two days there,” defenseman Andrej Sekera said.
Even Muller, an Ontario native and someone not unfamiliar to colder environments, said the weather situation in Buffalo was rather serious.
“Let’s just say, for Canadians and people that live up in the north, even for us it was a pretty good one,” he said. “When a town like Buffalo shuts things down, when there are no cars on the road, when restaurants are closing up because they are accepting the fact that everyone is staying indoors and not going anywhere, that’s a pretty good sign it’s a good storm. It was cold. The wind was the big factor, and the wind chill made it very uncomfortable and unsafe to go outside. So we just buckled down.”
Sekera, who played in Buffalo for seven seasons, said he had never seen such a fierce storm.
“We had a couple snowstorms, but not as windy as this one,” he said. “It was really bad.”
Prior to the game’s postponement, announced mid-afternoon, the Canes prepared as if they would face off at 7:08 p.m., just like any other game night.
“We were expecting the game would be played,” Sekera said. “We went for the pregame skate, we had lunch and took a nap.”
“It’s different. It doesn’t happen too often,” Muller said. “We approached it right up to cancellation, around 3:00, we said let’s have our morning skate, let’s have our meals, let’s have every preparation that we’re supposed to do to prepare for a game.”
After that, there wasn’t much the team could do with their suddenly free evening except lounge around at the hotel.
“It’s not a fun time, but it is what it is,” Sekera said. “Mostly guys stayed at the hotel. There were one or two places open for food.”
“The guys just hung out in the hotel. There wasn’t much to do, other than kind of hang there and eat,” Muller said. “The guys were great. They treated it like a team bonding thing.”
With the blizzard behind them, the Hurricanes got back on the ice on Wednesday afternoon to flush out the lethargy of the past two days. Having the schedule suddenly interrupted as it was on Tuesday could certainly stall any team’s momentum – especially a team riding a four-game winning streak – but Muller is looking at the benefits what an unexpected reprieve can bring.
“We’ve got to look at it in a positive way; it happened, and you can’t do anything about it, but it gave our guys an extra day of rest,” he said. “We have a few guys that have a few tweaks of things that gave them extra time to heal, so that’s awesome, and some of our top guys have been playing a lot of minutes.”
Injured forwards Jiri Tlusty (appendectomy) and Riley Nash (lower body) continued to skate with the team at practice, and eight healthy defensemen were also present. Muller expects Eric Staal (lower body) to miss the next couple of games, at least, and he added that Cam Ward (lower body) could begin skating again as early as Thursday.
The Canes will host Tim Gleason and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday before jetting off to Columbus to face the division-rival Blue Jackets on Friday.
“We’re looking at the positives,” Muller said. “Our guys got a little more rest, and we’ll need a good morning skate tomorrow to get refocused and get ready to go for a huge two games ahead of us.”