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Tweetmail No. 230: Williams, Divisional Games & Time Changes

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

Hello and welcome to Tweetmail, a weekly feature on Hurricanes.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.

What would you guess is the percentage chance Willy comes back this year...especially with Haula out for who knows how long? - @BenjaminKemp23

Justin Williams' potential return remains one of the biggest questions for the Carolina Hurricanes.

It was one of the marquee questions heading into the offseason, and as the summer progressed, his return seemed less likely. Then came the carefully-worded announcement in early September that Williams would be stepping away and taking a break - but not retiring.

This past weekend, I asked Canes President and General Manager Don Waddell if there was anything new to report on Williams, and this was his response: "We continue to talk with him. I think he's working out a little bit more on his own right now. I think he's going to start coming to the gym a little more. That's a positive sign. What that end result is yet is still a mystery to all of us, but we're hopeful that maybe there is an opportunity there to have him come back."

Head coach Rod Brind'Amour was asked today if he expects Williams to return this season: "I don't know. I think we're getting closer to a time where if he doesn't, then he's not. He's got to get in game shape and do all that, so there's a time frame for that. There's still time for that. … We talk quite a bit. We mostly talk about kids and how's coaching going. I'll ask if he's staying in shape or getting in shape, and he'll some days say, 'Yeah,' and then say, 'Ah, maybe.' So, we'll see."

So … I don't know? 50-50? More likely that he comes back than doesn't? I don't know if anyone truly knows except him.

The door on Williams' hockey career was never fully closed, and it remains cracked, waiting to see if he peeks through.

Hint on the possible outdoor game! - @Parker_cannada

Tom Dundon was introduced as majority owner of the Hurricanes in January 2018. Let's take a trip back almost two years in time to that press conference. Commissioner Gary Bettman was speaking about Dundon and what he had come to know about the NHL's newest stakeholder.

"We were chatting before we came in here, and we were just talking about something, and since I've only been in professional sports now for 37 years, I said, 'You know, new owners tend to be impatient.' And he goes, 'That's right, I'm impatient.'"

Could he have been referencing an outdoor game?! That's pure, probably incorrect speculation, but it's no secret that Dundon has hoped to make an outdoor game in Raleigh a reality for the Canes. It's likely something he discussed with Bettman even before being formally introduced as owner.

Bettman and the league made a market visit to Raleigh in February, and one of the items on the agenda was to generally assess the feasibility of a game at Carter-Finley Stadium.

"We are taking it very seriously and looking at the possibility," Bettman offered.

Video: One on One with Commissioner Bettman

At the time, the NHL had already announced their three-game outdoor slate for the 2019-20 season, so the earliest the Canes could conceivably host an outdoor game would be the 2020-21 season.

And if there's someone who is going to impatiently hound the league until the puck drops outside, it's Dundon.

"I didn't know Gary three months ago, and I think we're best friends now," Dundon joked at his introductory press conference before being fully embraced by a smiling Bettman.

What do you think has been the teams struggle within the division despite success outside of it? - @HeyHeyWadayaSay

That's a good question, and perhaps it comes down to the simple fact that the Metropolitan Division, at least two months into the season, seems to be the best and most competitive of the four divisions in the league.

The Canes are just 2-6-1 against Metropolitan Division opponents this season. Contrast that with their 9-2-0 record against the Atlantic, their second regulation loss coming on Tuesday night in Boston. The Canes are 3-1-0 against the Central and 2-2-0 against the Pacific. Last season, the Canes finished with a 13-13-2 record within their division.

We should note that the Canes still have 19 games to play within the Metro this season, plenty of hockey to spruce up their divisional record. The competition, though, is stout. Washington ranks right at the top of the league standings, and that's probably not going to change from here to the finish line. Barry Trotz has the Islanders buying in and succeeding in his system. Philadelphia seems to be for real, especially at home, where they are 9-1-4 through the first two months of the season. Pittsburgh, despite injuries to both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, is hanging around. And the Canes are in the middle of all of this. Don't count the Rangers out just yet, either, as they're over hockey .500 and sniffing around a wild card spot.

There's no mercy in the Metropolitan Division, but the Canes will certainly have to find a way to climb back at least towards a .500 record as we get deeper in the season, especially if the team has its eyes set on one of the top-three divisional playoff spots.

Friday time changes. Why? - @jbkellner

The Hurricanes shifted the start time of four Friday games in February and April from 7:30 p.m. to the more conventional 7 p.m. It's a subtle tweak, but consider that the Canes will play seven of their 16 back-to-back sets in seven consecutive weekends down the stretch of the season; from Feb. 21 to April 4, whether a Friday-Saturday or Saturday-Sunday set, the Canes will play one night, travel and play the next. That's a taxing stretch run, and every minute counts.

Why the hesitation to call up this year? Is it cap related? Signed, An Admitted 11/7 Non-fan lol - @sparkleshorty

I generally also find myself in the same camp, but, yes, limited cap space plays a role in personnel decisions. I touched more on salary cap match a few Tweetmails ago, but essentially, the Canes are banking as much free cap space as they can for a potential add down the line.

With that said, ideally you have a full complement of players. Martin Necas' injury on Friday complicated matters with the team turning around to head to Tampa for a game the next night. I believe the Canes wanted to make a call-up before heading to Boston, but logistics prevented that from happening. I would expect the team to make a forward recall before these next two home games, though.

Why do the players spit out all the water they drink in games? - @brandongray82

Any prolonged physical activity, like playing a sport, will result in water loss through sweat, and replenishing those fluids is key to avoiding dehydration. Spitting out the water (or Gatorade) may be nothing more than a simple, stubborn habit at this point.

If nothing else, rinsing with water or Gatorade provides relief for dryness in the mouth, and there are studies that show rinsing with a "carbohydrate-containing solution," like a sports drink, is associated with improved high-intensity endurance exercise performance.

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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 are also a fan of not playing games at 7:30 p.m., you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes, or you can drop me an email.

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