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Informals at RBC: Ponikarovsky's New Home

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina Hurricanes newcomer Alexei Ponikarovsky first stepped foot in the RBC Center this morning for informal workouts, as training camp begins at the end of the week.

Michael Smith
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And for Ponikarovsky, camp can’t get here fast enough.

“This time of the year is always fun. It’s what I’ve been waiting for,” he said. “You practice and train for two months and it just gets kind of boring, so I’m looking forward to it.”

The 31-year-old forward signed a one-year deal with Carolina on July 1 after putting up career-low numbers (5g, 10a) in 61 games with Los Angeles during an injury-riddled 2010-11 campaign.

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of producing, as he’s scored 20 goals in three of his last six seasons. His best years came in Toronto, where he put up career-high numbers in 2008-09, scoring 23 goals and assisting on 38 others (61 points).

One of his 20-goal seasons came during head coach Paul Maurice’s tenure with the Leafs, so his talent and capabilities are not unfamiliar.

Ponikarovsky hopes to find the same success in Raleigh that he had in Toronto. At 6-foot-4, 226 pounds, he also possesses a big frame that he can and has used to his advantage.

“I’ve got size. I know what I can do in front of the net and in the corners,” he said. “That’s my game. It’s always been a part of my game, so I have to bring that and score some goals.

After the media golf tournament a week and a half ago, Hurricanes GM and President Jim Rutherford expressed confidence in Ponikarovsky, acknowledging his off-year last season but noting that he’s a proven 20-goal scorer.

Ponikarovsky is eager to prove that again, as well, so he is participating in informal skates before training camp officially begins on Friday. Today, Ponikarovsky did an on-ice session before heading to the weight room for off-ice work.

“First day here today. It was pretty good,” he said. “I’m excited to be here. It’s a good group of guys with a lot of familiar faces.”

And that always helps a newcomer feel at home.

Other tidbits from the informal workouts at the RBC Center:
  • The fans’ first chance to catch Ponikarovsky in action will be Sunday, Sept. 18 in the annual Red-White game at the Caniac Carnival.
  • Cam Ward and Mike Murphy were the goaltenders on the ice today during the informal skate.
  • Eric Staal was running the show for most of the morning, as he instructed a number of drills on the ice for the approximate 15 skaters on the ice between 10:45 a.m. and 11:30.
  • Other Canes regulars were participating in off-ice work during the morning on-ice session.
  • The skate began wrapping up around 11:30 a.m., as CanesVision was setting up to do their shoots today. Tip drills and faceoffs were being worked on at either end of the ice as players gradually left the rink.

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