After winning their last two games and showing marked improvement since a pair of lopsided divisional losses last week, there’s reason to be optimistic that the Canes’ recent slide was just a blip in the radar over the course of a long season.
After the low point, a 5-1 loss to division rival Washington in which the team’s work ethic was questioned by management, that conclusion would have been a tough one to make.
However, as bleak as the situation may have been back then, GM Jim Rutherford said his finger never got too close to the trigger on making significant changes.
“With what our team’s gone through with the number of injuries and whatnot, to consider making any changes early in November I think would have been way premature,” said Rutherford.
Now, with the team as healthy as it’s been all season (Frank Kaberle’s return looks imminent and Justin Williams is ahead of schedule on his long recovery), the team’s improvement over their last three games looks to be validating the decision to stand pat.
At the very least, the team doesn’t seem to be putting on a repeat performance from a year ago, which everyone from Rutherford on down to the players openly worried about during the losing streak.
“I was concerned and I hoped that this wasn’t the same as last year where we got off to a good start and we started to lose it in November,” said Rutherford. “I think what’s really encouraging is the last three games where we’ve actually played better in each game in November, which I did not see last year. Getting players back and getting them used to playing together really makes a difference.”
Indeed, the recent run of injury-related good news has provided some stability to the Hurricanes’ lineup, with Rutherford believes is a key reason to the recent improvement on the ice.
“I think Peter [Laviolette] sticking to the lines now and the defense pairings gives us more consistency and gives the players more time to work together with each other and work out whatever issues they may have,” he said. “Now, it’s starting to show.”