Although the Hurricanes’ defense was hit hardest by all of the recent wheeling and dealing, each of its less-experienced members hit the ground running on Thursday night.
That contest marked the debut of Brian Pothier, the home debut of Alex Picard and the first NHL game since Dec. 21 for Jay Harrison
. Despite half of the unit being relatively new, Carolina was able to prevail 4-1 over Ottawa and limit scoring chances against for most of the game.
“Obviously it was a little different. I’ve never really seen a team trade three defensemen in one day,” said Picard, a former Senator. “I think we proved last night that even though we came in from different teams or are just getting called up, we all contributed and played good minutes against a good team. I think we’ve got to be pretty proud of ourselves and keep it going.”
Picard (18:33, +2) and Pothier (22:17, a game-high five blocked shots) both featured heavily in the Canes’ top four that night, with Harrison also making a solid contribution (13:13, +2). Their pairings were tinkered as the game went on, but all were finally able to settle into a nice groove. It didn’t look like a group that has lost regulars Andrew Alberts, Joe Corvo, Niclas Wallin and Aaron Ward in recent weeks, which should continue to be the case going forward.
”Last night it felt comfortable and I didn’t feel totally out of place,” said Pothier, who logged more ice time than any Hurricanes player not named Joni Pitkanen. “It’s just a matter of time with getting reps in and getting games in.”
The rearguards agreed that they were aided by the help they received from their forwards, who came back hard to prevent odd-man rushes before they could develop.
“What was nice last night was that I think our forwards understood that the D right now are a little inexperienced in the system,” said Pothier, who is used to playing on more of a free-wheeling team in Washington. “They did a phenomenal job of coming back hard and making it easy on us.”
There are still some finer points to learn concerning the Hurricanes’ system, with Pothier noting that neutral zone assignments are quite different in Carolina than they are in Washington. There’s also the matter of having to over-think things that don’t yet come naturally.
“Sometimes I’m still reacting like I was playing in the other system, and I have to think about it twice before I do something,” said Picard. “It’s just a matter of time.”