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Tweetmail No. 120: Start, Changes & True Defenders

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

Hello and welcome to a weekly feature on 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.

Tweet from @emohrberg: @MSmithCanes #tweetmail Is it too soon for us to be freaking out about another slow start? ����

My answer leans toward yes, because it's still incredibly early. The Hurricanes haven't even played a tenth of their schedule yet, so there is still plenty of time to correct what needs correcting.

And there are certainly things that need correcting. Some concerning trends in the Hurricanes' game have emerged in the first six games. The defense hasn't been particularly sharp, and the goaltending has been shaky. A lot of what was the Hurricanes' identity last season - a team that competed and worked hard for 60 minutes or more - hasn't been evident in the first two weeks of the season. The team has had impressive stretches, no doubt, but they've also had stretches in which they're loose, getting outskated and getting outplayed.

The good news is that these are correctable ailments. Take Tuesday night's game in Detroit, for instance. The team had an embarrassing first period, as Andrej Nestrasil said on the broadcast, but they responded in the second period by pushing the pace and making plays. Because of that, they came within a goal of tying the game.

The Hurricanes did not have the season-opening road trip they envisioned. After six games, the team has just one win and four points in the standings. But it's still very early in this 2016-17 campaign. The challenge for the Hurricanes now is to find their game and rediscover their identity before it does become too late.

Tweet from @b4_2_b8: @MSmithCanes what changes would you expect to see from the Canes before the home opener? #tweetmail

I'd imagine changes are imminent. Head coach Bill Peters had this to say after Tuesday night's 4-2 loss in Detroit: "We're going to have to find a lineup that works for us. We're going to find an identity that we can be proud of."

At the very least, I'd look for some more lineup shuffling to happen heading into Friday's home opener. The team had a scheduled day off today, but we might get a better idea of what those changes might be at practice on Thursday. Early reports suggest Jeff Skinner may be good to go for Friday, which would obviously be a huge boost to the lineup. I'm not sure if any player move (or moves) will be made with Charlotte just yet, but that's also an option as the Hurricanes look to infuse their lineup with skill and pace.

Tweet from @jbkellner: @MSmithCanes Hey Michael dot com Smith. Will the True Defenders program be back this season? #Tweetmail

Yes, True Defenders, a military initiative created last season by American-born defensemen Justin Faulk, John-Michael Liles and James Wisniewski, will return again this season. Last season, the True Defenders program hosted nearly 500 military guests over 11 Hurricanes home games; military guests received game tickets, parking passes, True Defenders long-sleeved tees and PNC Arena gift cards, in addition to postgame meet-and-greets with Hurricanes players. More details on this year's program will be coming in the near future.

Cam's Champs and the Staal Family Foundation will continue to host guests in their respective suites at Hurricanes home games, as well.

And, Jeff Skinner is spearheading his own community initiative this year, which will be announced in the coming days.

Tweet from @HarperRaven: @MSmithCanes With this being the last time the Canes play at the Joe, what is your favorite memory from the games at the Joe? #Tweetmail

As a reporter, I've only covered three Canes games at The Joe, including last night, so my memory pool is shallow. But from those three, one is the obvious highlight: Oct. 16, 2015, when Brock McGinn scored his first NHL goal on his first NHL shift en route to a 5-3 win over the Wings, just the Canes' second victory in Detroit since 1990. McGinn's debut and goal was a special moment on what turned out to be a special night.

As a fan, I was lucky enough to see one game at The Joe 12 years ago; it was Jan. 31, 2004, and the Hurricanes were in town to square off with the Red Wings. The Canes had a 3-0 lead after the first period and took a 4-1 lead into the third period. The game ended in a 4-4 tie. The next night, the Carolina Panthers lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII. It wasn't a great sports weekend.


Join me next week for more questions and more answers!

If you have a question you'd like answered or you have a favorite memory from The Joe you'd like to share, you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes or drop an email here.

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