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Canes Make Final Tuneups Before Home Opener

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

At long last, the Carolina Hurricanes are set to host the New York Rangers in their home opener on Friday.

Finally back in Raleigh for a period longer than 36 hours, the Hurricanes practiced at Raleigh Center Ice on Thursday in advance of Friday night's match-up at PNC Arena. The Canes will be the last of the NHL's 30 clubs to open at home.

"Outstanding to be at home," head coach Bill Peters said. "Can't wait."

"It's nice to come back and play in front of your fans," Jeff Skinner said. "It will be a great atmosphere. We have a lot of guys in here who haven't played here yet … so it will be exciting for a lot of guys."

Video: Rink Report: Home Opener

The Hurricanes bring home a 1-3-2 record and four points after spending the first six games on the road, where NHL teams have not fared well in the first two weeks of the season; thus far, road teams are a combined 29-49-19.

Carolina topped Calgary by a 4-2 margin on Oct. 20 for their lone victory of the road swing. They also snagged a point in each of their first two games of the season, but ceded three-goal leads in each game, as well.

"We're scoring, but we're reckless in order to score. I want to tighten up our game. Last year we had an identity as a team," Peters said. "You'll know when it's clicking. Right now it's not clicking. It's not clicking for 60 minutes. We're well aware of that, and we're working towards fixing those problems."

Scoring hasn't been the question mark it was last season, but suddenly the team defense is.

"We'll fix it," Peters said, confidently.

And the defensive pairings? The Hurricanes are still searching for the right combinations.

"We'll fix that, too," Peters asserted.

More than perhaps Peters expected to have to sort out six games into the season.

"More, yeah," he said. "I don't know the order, but the three bottom teams in goals against are Arizona, Toronto and Carolina, three coaches that have a lot of pride defensively and are wounded, so let's fix that. And we will fix it."

Video: Bill Peters: "We're not organized right now"

"We want to respond from our last game," Skinner said, referencing Tuesday's 4-2 loss in Detroit in which the Canes fell behind 3-0 in the first period. "On the road trip, there are some real good things we had and there are some things we want to work on. We want to keep building on the good things and learn from the mistakes."

Playing games at home could ideally alleviate some of the problems the Canes have faced in the early season.

"It's huge for this team, especially with how young we are right now," Peters explained. "When you're at home you can try to help those guys a little bit more with favorable match-ups and zone starts. We'll definitely be doing that for the next two games."

Not among the Hurricanes practicing on Thursday was Skinner, who missed Tuesday's game with a middle-body injury. Skinner did put in some individual on-ice work as practice was winding down, and he's hopeful that he can play in Friday's home opener.

"The goal is to get back as soon as possible. We'll see how things go," he said. "I think I had a good skate today, so I'll see how I progress."

"There's a chance he can go," Peters said. "We'll know a lot more in the morning."

Video: Jeff Skinner: "I had a good skate today"

What exactly is a middle-body injury?

"It's a good way of keeping everyone guessing," Skinner smiled. "It's somewhere between the chin and the shins."

After playing six straight games on the road to begin the season, the Hurricanes will play eight of their next 11 games at PNC Arena, a stretch that includes a five-game homestand in mid-November.

"We've got to keep maintaining the focus of getting better. Since camp, that's been our focus," Skinner said. "Now that the games have started for real, you want to lead that into getting points. The road trip's behind us, and we want to take what we can from it."

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