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The Official Site of the Carolina Hurricanes

October 2011 Monthly Report

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes

October is a notoriously tough month for the Carolina Hurricanes, due largely in part to the extended road trip brought on by the North Carolina State Fair.

Michael Smith
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This season’s road trip was much lighter, especially compared to last year’s, as the team stayed close to the Eastern seaboard. However, their record didn’t fare as well as they’d want it to.

Out of a possible 22 points in the month of October, the Canes came away with 11, going 4-4-3 in 11 games. Streakiness played a big factor in the team’s .500 record; the Canes did put together a three-game winning streak, but it was sandwiched by three-game losing streaks. (The Canes did have three overtime/shootout losses in those losing stretches, so they didn’t go completely pointless.)

“I think we’re a .500 team. We’ve had a couple runs,” defenseman Tim Gleason said. “I think there are a lot of good signs that we’re coming to compete, and I think in the next month, we have to find a way to put 60 minutes together more often.”

OCT. 7 vs. TAMPA BAY 5-1 L
OCT. 10 at NEW JERSEY 4-2 L
OCT. 12 vs. BOSTON 3-2 W
OCT. 14 at BUFFALO 4-3 W
OCT. 18 at BOSTON 4-1 W
OCT. 21 at ST. LOUIS 3-2 OTL
OCT. 22 at WINNIPEG 5-3 L
OCT. 25 vs. OTTAWA 3-2 SOL
OCT. 28 vs. CHICAGO 3-0 W
“We want to establish ourselves as one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference, and you’ve got do that by putting together wins and separating yourself,” forward Eric Staal said.

Stringing together wins will be priority No. 1 for the Canes in November, a month that could play into the team’s favor. Getting wins starts with a solid system, something head coach Paul Maurice liked about the month of October.

“I like the style of play that we’re playing and the understanding of it is good,” he said. “I’ve liked the games that we’ve won and how we’ve played. With the exception of the Winnipeg game, all of our losses have been 2-1 or 2-2 going into the third period, so we’ve been in those as well.

“At the start of the year, you look to get to your game as quickly as you can.”

It seemed to take the Canes a few games to do that, as they dropped games to Tampa Bay, Washington (in overtime) and New Jersey to start the season. In the games the Canes have won – against Boston twice, Buffalo and Chicago – the team has put forth a solid, 60-minute effort. That complete game has been lacking in the losses.

“We had a couple of games in there that we would have liked to do better as a team, but overall we’ve positioned ourselves pretty well at this point after 11 games to go forward,” said Jim Rutherford, the Hurricanes President and General Manager.

Sophomore Skinner

A month into this young season, sophomore forward Jeff Skinner leads the Canes in points with 10 (4g, 6a). Through 11 games, he’s already on pace to top his 63-point rookie campaign that earned him the Calder Trophy.

When asked if there was any question or concern about Skinner’s game heading into his second NHL season, Rutherford was quick to respond with a confident “no.”

Jeff Skinner is not only a special player and a special person, he has a special character and a special make-up about him,” Rutherford said. “From the day he started playing the game, he has always figured out a way to be successful. This is a guy that I’m never concerned about.”

Maurice, who said he learned very quickly last season not to put any restraints on Skinner, echoed Rutherford’s sentiments.

“I don’t think there’s been a situation that we’ve seen from day one that he hasn’t been able to handle,” Maurice said. “Based on what we know of him and the way he’s performed, we weren’t expecting any letdown.

“He’s a very aware young man. Certainly he heard ‘sophomore jinx’ a thousand times over the course of the summer as every Calder player does,” Maurice said. “I think he’s competing harder in his games at this point in the season than he was last year at this time.”

And if that is any sign of what is ahead, we should be in for another great season from No. 53.

Young Defensemen

Coming into training camp, many thought that the focus would be on the competition for the coveted few forward slots. As it turned out, two young defensemen made things much more interesting on the back-end.

Despite seven signed NHL defenseman on the Canes’ roster, 18-year-old Ryan Murphy and 19-year-old Justin Faulk came into camp with the ultimate goal of making the team. Though neither of them was able to crack the lineup as regulars this season, the future is bright on the blue line.

“I like Justin’s maturity and his hockey sense. He skates well, he moves the puck well and he’s really ahead of his development from our projections,” Rutherford said. “We’d be very comfortable with him in our lineup right now. He wasn’t in, and we want him playing games.”

After being the only player to skate in all six of the Canes’ preseason games, Faulk saw three regular season games before becoming a healthy scratch. He was then assigned to Charlotte for a weekend set of games, recalled here for a couple of days of practice and then reassigned to Charlotte.

Though he didn’t record a point with the Canes in his three games, Faulk has posted 5 points (1g, 4a) in six games in Charlotte, which ties him for the team lead in scoring among defenseman.

“I believe at some point in time this season, he’s going to be a factor in our defense,” Rutherford said.

Ryan Murphy skated in three preseason games with the Hurricanes but was a healthy scratch in four regular season games before being returned to the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. Murphy has posted 5 assists in eight games with the Rangers.

“Murphy had a great camp. As everybody could see, he’s a highly skilled player,” Rutherford said. “I suspect that at the end of his Junior season, he’ll either be back with the Hurricanes or Checkers. He certainly should be with the Hurricanes as a regular player next year.”

Looking Forward to November

In years past, the Canes have had a home-heavy March, which is favorable when making a late-season playoff push. This season, they look to get into playoff position earlier than game 82, and November is a perfect month to do just that.

The Canes will play 10 of their 15 games in November at the RBC Center, the most home games in any one month on the schedule.

“Any time you’re at home for a long stretch, you want to get the wins, you want to establish yourself and you want to make it a difficult building for teams to come in,” Staal said. “It starts with coming out with energy, using our building, using our crowd. Wins are big, especially at home. So next month is huge for us.”

“Now’s the time to kick it into gear. It’s almost like playoff mode now because you want to give yourself a little bit of breathing room at the end if you need to,” Gleason said. “It’s good to get the wins now because it only gets harder, especially after Christmas.”

“I don’t know that there’s a month that’s not the most critical,” Maurice said. “It’s always the one ahead of you. The game ahead of you. That good feeling and consistency is always something you’re searching for.”

After a streaky October, the Canes are still certainly searching for that consistency, something that looked to be brewing amid their three-game winning streak in the middle of the month.

“We’re .500. We’re in the mix. But we want to get to that next level, get to that next step as a group,” Staal said. “We’re slowly getting there. From there, you want to become one of the upper echelon teams, and it starts with winning games.”

JEFF SKINNER 11 4 6 10 -7 JEFF SKINNER 11 4 6 10 -7
JUSSI JOKINEN 11 3 5 8 2 JUSSI JOKINEN 11 3 4 8 2
CHAD LAROSE 11 1 5 6 -2 CHAD LAROSE 11 1 4 6 -2
JONI PITKANEN 11 2 4 6 -8 JONI PITKANEN 11 2 3 6 -8
TUOMO RUUTU 11 3 2 5 -3 TUOMO RUUTU 11 3 2 5 -3

October record: 4-4-3, 11 points
Overall record: 4-4-3, 11 points, 4th in Southeast Division, 9th in Eastern Conference (For full standings, click here.)

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