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Down, But Not Out

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes

The morning after a disheartening loss in Montreal, the Carolina Hurricanes got back to work.

Michael Smith
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Amid rumors and speculation, the Canes took to the rink at Raleigh Center Ice and got back to basics, after what was an ugly 4-0 loss North of the border that saw the team struggle to generate any offense and play a porous defensive game.

“Anything that comes out sounds like an excuse, so we just won’t make any,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “We just played a very, very poor hockey game.”

That was clear in the locker room – no one was happy with last night’s effort. And everyone is aware of the situation the team is in: the Canes currently sit at the bottom of the Southeast Division and are 14th in the Eastern Conference at 6-10-3. They lead the last-place New York Islanders by four points, but the Isles have four games in hand. In their last 10 games, the Canes are just 3-7.

But the focus of today wasn’t to dwell on that; rather, the Canes are moving on and looking ahead to tomorrow night’s match-up with the Buffalo Sabres.

The team is certainly down. But no one in the room believes they are out.

“As miserable as it was in Montreal, today’s a new day and you’ve got to prepare yourself for Buffalo,” goaltender Cam Ward said. “We have to work at just righting the ship. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s the way you’ve got to approach it. You’ve got to be strong mentally, and this is a challenge for ourselves.”

“It’s always tough when you’re going through stretches like this, and sure, everybody’s feeling pressure and trying to get better,” Alexei Ponikarovsky said. “It doesn’t matter – you still have to be positive.”

Staying positive in a time like this can be tough, especially with speculation running rampant on the outside. That heated up even more so after last night’s loss. Some want to see a trade, some want to see new personnel behind the bench and some want both. But Hurricanes’ President and General Manager Jim Rutherford isn’t going to make a move that jeopardizes long-term plans for a gamble on a short-term fix.

All the while, the players are blocking that conversation out, trying not to let it distract them from what they can do to get this team back on track.

“That stuff is out of our own control,” Ward said. “What we can control is how we play on the ice and how we approach the games on the ice. I think the coaching staff has done everything that they can to prepare us as players to do what we need to do on the ice.

“The players are the ones that put on the skates and go out there and perform," he said. "We need to hold ourselves accountable for the way that we perform on the ice.”

“Whether it’s there or not, it can’t be an excuse,” Jeff Skinner said of the rumors abound. “There’s no use in talking about it. We’ve got to go out there and figure out how to get a win. We can’t be looking for outside help. We just have to get a win and find a way to get it done.”

Maurice was frank when asked where the message comes from to get the team back in the win column in a hard time like this one.

“It’s not on the Captain. It’s not on the players,” he said. “It’s on me.”

The good news is that the team won’t have to wait long to get another crack at snagging a win – Buffalo comes to town for a 7 p.m. face-off tomorrow night.

Not facing the Ryan Miller-less Sabres will be Zac Dalpe, who will get reassigned to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League today. Maurice hinted at other lineup changes coming, perhaps on the back-end. Justin Faulk’s name has been tossed into that discussion.

“Tomorrow it’s a different day, different game, different team that we’re going to play against,” Ponikarovsky said. “We know what we have to do, and that’s pretty much it.”

Ward is of the same mindset: the team simply has to perform, and it’s not going to be easy against an 11-7, second-place Buffalo team. But it’s a team the Canes have beat already once this season, and the Canes know they need the win in the worst way.

“You don’t want anybody to get to the point where you accept losing,” Ward said.” You’ve got to hate to lose. You want to try and get better and better.

“I’m frustrated just like everybody else, but through my experience, you’ve got to be able to put it behind you and be tough mentally and get this team back on track. That’s my mindset.”

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