It has been an abnormal week for the Carolina Hurricanes, to say the least.
It started with a postponement – Carolina’s second in as many weeks – in Philadelphia on Tuesday and snowballed from there.
Moving the game against the Flyers to Wednesday forced the Canes to back up their scheduled Friday meeting with the Ottawa Senators to Saturday – at noon.
“We’re not used to it (early games). But we’re not used to snowstorm cancellations, either,” head coach Kirk Muller said with a laugh. “You’ve got to be ready for anything thrown at you. Ottawa probably doesn’t play many at noon either. There are no excuses. We’ve just got to prepare differently and get ready to get off to a good start.”
Thus far, the schedule shuffle hasn’t adversely affected the team, as the Canes topped the Flyers 3-2 and the Buffalo Sabres 5-3. Those victories away from Raleigh improved the Canes’ road point percentage to .542, a skosh better than their .519 point percentage at home.
With faceoff slated for noon on Saturday, the Canes held a "morning skate" of sorts on Friday, in lieu of the traditional day-of-game morning skate.
“We treated today like a morning skate and prepared stuff for today. [The game] comes early tomorrow at noon, so we’ve already addressed things we want to put into tomorrow’s game-plan and worked on it in the morning skate,” Muller said. “So, more or less, preparation for the game starts today, which is a little different than the typical game day.”
Since being reunited, the Canes’ top line of Jiri Tlusty, Eric Staal and Alexander Semin has combined for 17 points (9g, 8a) in the last four games. Semin has scored in four consecutive games (6g) for the first time since 2010, Staal is riding a four-game assist streak (5a) and Tlusty has points in three straight (2g, 3a).
“I talked to the line in general and said, ‘Listen. You’re all really good hockey players. All three of you could very easily be in the Olympics this year. You’re international, top-quality players. For whatever reason it didn’t happen,’” Muller recalled before Semin was named to the Russian Olympic team. “’But you were one of the best lines last year. In order for you guys to get back at that, it’s not going to be one individual doing it; it’s going to be the three of you helping each other out.’ Semin is getting the goals right now, but as a trio, they’ve all picked their game up, and they’re getting more production.”
Also playing well (still) is goaltender Anton Khudobin, who is 9-3-0 this season with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. Since returning from injury, Khudobin is 7-3-0; in two of the losses, the Canes failed to score, and he came into the game in relief in the other.
“He says he feels good. He’s on a roll,” Muller said of Khudobin, who is likely to start versus Ottawa. “He competes. He really doesn’t quit on any shots. He’s made some big, key saves on second and third chances. He’s seeing the puck well, he’s focused and he’s confident.”
In other roster notes, the Canes assigned defenseman Ryan Murphy to Charlotte on Friday morning to ensure that he can play in the AHL during the NHL's Olympic break, which begins Feb. 9. Forward Elias Lindholm, the Canes’ only other waiver-exempt player, can be assigned to Charlotte right before the break due to the time he spent with Sweden in the World Junior Championship.
Assigning Murphy leaves the Canes with seven defensemen. Brett Bellemore has been a healthy extra in the team’s last four games, and based on line rushes in today’s practice, he will again sit on Saturday.
Forward Patrick Dwyer did not practice on Friday, as he is day-to-day with an upper body injury.
“He won’t be in tomorrow, but I don’t think he’s going to be far off after that,” Muller said.
Goaltender Cam Ward put in work on the ice as the Canes’ skate was wrapping up. He has missed 10 games with a lower-body injury, and Muller had no timetable for his return.
“We’re going to make sure he’s 100 percent. He hasn’t even had a full practice with us yet,” Muller said, noting the Canes wouldn’t hold a full practice again until Thursday. “It’s tough for a guy being hurt right now.”
For fans attending Saturday’s game, the Canes will be offering $2 soda and $1 popcorn. Those with tickets who cannot attend the rescheduled Saturday match-up have the option to exchange their unused tickets for any one of the team’s three remaining Friday home games. For complete details, please click here.