Regular-season victories don’t get a whole lot more emotional than Thursday night’s contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As excited as the Canes were to win one they had all but lost on several occasions, Coach Paul Maurice was still wary about what might have been had a few things turned out differently.
“Getting a win is huge, and especially the way you fight back,” he said after watching his team erase a second three-goal deficit at home in six days. “To lose that game with 30 seconds left … that would have been an awfully dark day here. I can’t imagine what it’s like if you score with two (seconds) left and then win in a shootout.”
It was a low-key optional skate at the RBC Center today, with just five skaters – Rod Brind’Amour, Patrick Dwyer, Tom Kostopoulos, Niclas Wallin and Stephane Yelle taking the ice along with goaltenders Manny Legace and Justin Peters.
That being said, here are a few bullets from after the session:
- Maurice said that he was hopeful about Joni Pitkanen’s status for tomorrow night’s home game against Tampa Bay. That should be considered a near-certainty after the team reassigned Bryan Rodney to Albany following the skate.
Although Maurice and General Manager Jim Rutherford had plenty of good things to say about Rodney’s play as an offensive puck mover, Pitkanen’s return will off-set that loss and give the team a good balance on the back end. Should Pitkanen continue to miss the odd game here and there, as has been the case since training camp, Rodney seems a good bet to fill that role on an interim basis at the very least.
Here’s what Rutherford had to say earlier this week about Rodney:
“I’m very pleased with him. He brings an element to our team that we didn’t have. He skates real well and he moves the puck well. He has his shortcomings as all players do, but for a guy that hasn’t played many games, he’s done some real good things for us.”
- One can’t argue with how successful the top two lines have been lately, particularly in last night’s game, but there could be some changes in the other units as players begin to get healthy.
Rod Brind’Amour played a season-low 10:09 against Toronto, centering both the third and fourth lines at times, with Maurice indicating the team’s captain may see more minutes at a different position in the future.
“I think Roddy right now is better on the wing,” he said. “We’re not moving (Jokinen) back because that line (with Matt Cullen and Tuomo Ruutu) is just on fire and Staal is not ready. There’s going to be a bit of moving guys around for that third-line center position. Dwyer may play some minutes there too.”
- Speaking of being on fire, Ruutu now has eight points in his last five games, marking his best five-game stretch as a Cane and the best of his career since his 2003-04 rookie season in Chicago.
The most recent game of the current stretch was a four-assist performance Thursday night – a career high for a single game. The first game was a two-goal performance against Los Angeles in which he was one of the few Hurricanes to accomplish much offensively. Since then, a handful of others have followed.
“He leads with his play,” said Maurice. “He’s such a physical force, but his consistency in the last two weeks has been very, very good. He got the suspension and then the injury, and then after that he fought his way back through those injuries and started playing great.
“It’s more the energy that he brings to the ice,” added Maurice. “He’s out banging even when things aren’t going well, and then he gets a hit, the crowd goes wild and that gives the team a lift. You feed off a guy like that for sure.