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Tweetmail No. 78: Opponents, October & Goalies

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
Hello and welcome to a weekly feature on CarolinaHurricanes.com in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully, the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.

Let’s get to it.

I’m most interested to see how the Hurricanes stack up against their Metropolitan Division foes. 30 of the team’s 82 regular-season games are played within the eight-team division, so their record against their fellow Metro opponents is going to be rather influential on their final standing.

Last season, the Canes were a game over hockey .500 in the Metropolitan Division at 13-12-5. The Rangers, Capitals, Islanders and Penguins represented the division in the playoffs, and it’s entirely conceivable that both wild cards emerge from the Metropolitan Division this season.

A number of Metro teams were active this summer: the Capitals added TJ Oshie and Justin Williams, the Pens acquired Phil Kessel and the Blue Jackets traded for Brandon Saad in June. What sort of impact these new faces make in their new places remains to be seen, but the division appears to be headed toward another hyper-competitive season.

In that respect, it will be intriguing to see how the Canes match up in their division, which could be decisive in the team’s own postseason hopes.

Because of the Canes’ languid October of 2014, improving on last year’s start shouldn’t be too difficult. So, how does the team erase the memories of their 0-6-2 record from a season ago?

In year two under head coach Bill Peters, many players will already be familiar with his system and what he demands night in and night out. In theory, this should alleviate any slow start that could be attributed to the adjustment to a new coaching staff.

The team, especially the returning players who haven’t tasted the playoffs in years, knows that a strong start is vital to season-long success.

Said Eric Staal at media day: “For the guys that have been here, you know what he (Peters) is, what he expects and how he wants us to play. I’m sure there will be some tweaks here and there. I’m sure he’s watched a lot of video and broken things down over the summer. For the most part, you know his style, how he sees a good game and how he sees good plays. With that comfort level going into camp, it’s a good thing for the guys that have been here. It will help right off the bat.”

Head coach Bill Peters said last season that, with Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin, he wanted to have a goaltender step up and claim the starting job; he’d rather not use a two-man platoon system. Ultimately, Ward won that No. 1 job and started 50 of the teams 82 games.

This year, the situation appears similar with Ward and Eddie Lack, who was acquired by the Hurricanes in a draft-day trade this summer. As was the case last year, the Hurricanes are going to use training camp and the exhibition season, which features six games, to help determine who will be the team’s No. 1 goaltender heading into opening night in Nashville on Oct. 8.

Lack is going to push Ward to be better, just as Ward will push Lack in the same manner. Ultimately, I’d pin Ward as the starter come opening night, but it’s going to make for an interesting three weeks in the lead up to Nashville.

Said Ward on media day: “I’m real excited to meet Eddie. I kind of view it as a similar situation to last year. We’re both, as with Anton (Khudobin), going to be pushing each other to earn the right to be in the net. I feel that’s the way it should be. We’ll probably take that into exhibition, and then you leave it up to the coach's decision to see what’s the best route to go.”

Check back soon! The ice-making process begins this weekend, and we’ll be bringing you behind-the-scenes shots as the building cools and that familiar frozen, white slab of ice takes center stage.

You bet. Half-priced pizza returns.

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Join me next week for more questions and more answers!

If you have a question you’d like answered or you’d like to share your thoughts on this fancy new website redesign, you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes (or drop an email here).



Michael Smith
MICHAEL SMITH is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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