Although last night’s contest in Nashville did represent Jerome Samson
’s first NHL game, one could forgive him for not feeling completely out of place.
Samson is one of six players currently on the Hurricanes’ roster who started the season in Albany of the AHL, including five forwards. He’s even staying at the same hotel as many of those players, creating a similar atmosphere to what he’s experienced at training camp each of the last three seasons.
”Having guys that I know around helps a lot just with fitting into the group,” he said. “I had [Hurricanes Assistant Coach] Tom Rowe as a coach for my first year in Albany as well. It’s definitely a good thing.”
With an assist early in the Nashville game, Samson became the second player to record a point on his first shift as a Hurricane this season, joining Jiri Tlusty from the December 11 game at Washington.
”I couldn’t be more happy right now,” said Samson. “The situation is kind of perfect with my first point in my first shift and I couldn’t ask for more.”
Samson had to wait a long time for the opportunity, as several players received the call to the NHL before he did, despite the fact that he finished last season tied for the team’s scoring lead and was gain pacing the group at the time of his recall.
“At some point you ask yourself, ‘Is it going to come?’” he said. “It finally happened, and it was off the hook, I guess. When [Albany coach] Jeff Daniels called me into his office, I had a smile the whole time I was talking to him
“At first I couldn’t really realize it,” he continued. “It wasn’t until I stepped on the ice and saw the jersey with the Hurricanes logo and the number 67 on it. It was a really good moment for me.”
Samson will definitely stay in the lineup tonight, as no injured players are ready to face the Colorado Avalanche. That could change Sunday, a target date for Sergei Samsonov. Coach Paul Maurice also confirmed that Cam Ward will start for the second consecutive night, with Manny Legace a possibility for Sunday's home game against Ottawa.
On defense, the Hurricanes were at least a little wary that Andrew Alberts would be facing a suspension following his five-minute boarding major and game misconduct on Nashville’s Steve Sullivan last night, but no additional punishment from the NHL is forthcoming.
That infraction, combined with seven separate minor penalties, has the team focusing on their discipline ahead of tonight’s game. That will be especially important as they will theoretically find themselves as the more tired of the two teams, with the Avalanche idle and waiting in Raleigh since yesterday.
“We’re going to talk about our stick discipline,” said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. “Three tripping, a couple of hooking and an interference penalty – that is a critical piece to what we’re doing right now. We go in with a lineup with 20 guys wearing our sweaters and we think we can win, but our margin for error becomes slighter.
“Three five-on-threes in our last three games – that’s too much.”
Although the Avalanche sits just one point out of the lead in a tight Northwest Division race, they have not been thrilled with their play of late, including a 3-2 home loss to the New York Islanders on Wednesday.
That led to rookie Head Coach Joe Sacco calling out a few of his key players yesterday, including forwards Paul Stastny (one goal in seven games) and Wojtek Wolski (zero goals in seven games), who are still far and away the team’s top two scoring threats. In addition, Sacco noted that he isn’t satisfied with offensive defenseman John-Michael Liles, who twice served as a healthy scratch last week.
Rookie Matt Duchene, the 18-year-old third overall pick in this past summer’s draft, turned it on in December with a 13-point month, earning the league’s rookie of the month honors. Although ultimately projected to be a strong two-way player, he is currently a team-worst minus-11, including a minus-4 rating over his last four games.
Fellow rookie Ryan O’Reilly, who had a better offensive start to the season than Duchene to the tune of 10 points in his first 11 NHL games, has slowed considerably since. He has just one point in his last 20.