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At the Rink: Coyotes at Hurricanes

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- When Bill Peters took over as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes in June, he made it clear that he would have the "ultimate hammer," using ice time as a way to get the most out of his players.

The Hurricanes coach made good on his point, planning to make forward Alexander Semin a healthy scratch ahead of Carolina's game against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night. In eight games, Semin has two assists and carries a -7 plus/minus rating.

Peters seemed to have no reservations about his decision. Despite the Hurricanes 0-6-2 start, he was enthusiastic in the moments after the morning skate, noting the damp, chilly fall weather and expressing an eagerness to get underway against the Coyotes.

As for Semin sitting out, he was matter-of-fact in saying he hopes that Semin isn't the only player who will receive the message.

"Oh yeah, you'd rather do that than have to do it 22 separate times," Peters said. "You can grab everyone's attention at one time. It's much quicker and efficient.

"[The players] are in the room, they probably talk about it. We've met with Semin, we've met with everybody. At some point, actions speak louder than words. You have to handle it professionally and bounce back. And when you get back in the lineup, you've got to be a good player and make sure it doesn't happen again."

Defenseman Jay Harrison, a recent healthy scratch for Carolina, offered a little perspective.

"I think it's a good opportunity to simplify and get back to what you know," he said. "It's up to you. No one else can do it for you. It's proving it to yourself and building that confidence from within."

Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, who missed five games with an upper-body injury, had an assist in his return to the lineup in a 4-1 loss to Tuesday night to the Vancouver Canucks. He said the Hurricanes players knew the expectations from Peters and new general manager Ron Francis before the season.

"They talked about that when they came in here," Staal said. "They're going to expect certain things, and if you're not delivering that, that's the road they're going to take. As a player, you've got to be fine with that. You try to deliver what they expect."

The Hurricanes will get a boost in the forward ranks with the return of two players. Forwards Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Dwyer are back in the Carolina lineup after missing four and six games, respectively, with lower-body injuries.

Arizona coach Dave Tippett has concerns of his own when it comes to steadying his team. The Coyotes have started their four-game road trip with a 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and a 2-1 defeat against the Florida Panthers. The thought of losing to a winless team is not a concern.

"Being winless on the road trip, that takes precedence over anything the other team is doing," Tippett said after his team's optional skate. "We know we have to play well if we're going to have success and we're relying on everyone to do so. Both of these teams should be desperate."

Here are the projected lineups:

COYOTES

Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan

Sam Gagner - Martin Hanzal - Martin Erat

Rob Klinkhammer - Justin Hodgman - Lauri Korpikoski

Brandon McMillan - Kyle Chipchura - Joe Vitale

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek

Keith Yandle - Michael Stone

David Schlemko- Conner Murphy

Mike Smith

Devan Dubnyk

Scratches: B.J. Crombeen, Chris Summers.

Injuries: Dave Moss (upper-body)

HURRICANES

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Jeff Skinner

Nathan Gerbe - Riley Nash - Elias Lindholm

Brad Malone - Jay McClement - Patrick Dwyer

Chris Terry - Victor Rask - Zach Boychuk

Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk

Tim Gleason - Jay Harrison

Ron Hainsey - Brett Bellemore

Cam Ward

Anton Khudobin

Scratches: Alexander Semin, John-Michael Liles

Injuries: Jordan Staal (broken leg)

Who's hot: Hurricanes forward Jiri Tlusty has five goals in eight games, including three on the power play. Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has a three-game point streak (1-2-3). Arizona's power-play is clicking at 26.5 percent, second-best in the NHL. The Coyotes have nine goals with the man advantage in nine games.

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