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Early travel doesn't get any easier for Hurricanes

by Dan Rosen /
HELSINKI -- Cam Ward cracked up.

Eric Staal shook his head.

Joe Corvo? Well, he still just can't believe it.

"No, it is ridiculous," Corvo told when the topic of the Hurricanes' schedule upon their return from Finland was brought up. "From the start here (in Helsinki) to the West Coast trip and then to starting at home against Washington and Pittsburgh, it's just like, how much can you guys handle in one month?

"It's going to be a test. A mental test more than anything else."

Throughout their entire time in Europe, their entire journey from Raleigh, N.C., to St. Petersburg, Russia, to Helsinki and then finally back to Raleigh early Saturday morning with four points in their pockets, the Hurricanes were thinking of what lies ahead when they get back.

It's not a whole lot of sleep in their beds, that's for sure.

The Hurricanes will take off again Wednesday, and, yes, they'll be heading to their third different country in a matter of two weeks. Of course, they're familiar with Canada, so Ottawa isn't as far out of routine as the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere was for them.

However, after facing the Senators on Thursday, the 'Canes get a quick jaunt home before going across North America to Vancouver for a game on Oct. 17. Then it's south to San Jose and Los Angeles, then east to Phoenix before finally returning Raleigh to open their home slate against Washington on Oct. 27.

Wait, it gets better.

Washington, of course, is the defending Presidents' Trophy winner and the favorite to win the Southeast Division for a fourth-straight season. But after playing Washington the 'Canes get on a plane bound for New York the next day to face the Rangers on Oct. 29.

Then it's back to Raleigh for the second game of the back-to-back, against the Penguins. Then they head north again, this time to Philadelphia, to play the Flyers on Nov. 1.

Sure, they get 16 of their final 24 games of the season at home, and that could be fruitful timing for a team that figures to be in the pack chasing a playoff spot all season, but the Hurricanes can't look that far down the tunnel for the light right now.

"We'll be busy, that's no question," Staal told "Hopefully for us we can continue to play hard and string together some wins. That would be huge. If we can come out with a good record this month, that'll help us in the long run, definitely."

The key for Carolina was picking up the four available points in Helsinki. At least after winning 4-3 on Thursday and 2-1 in a shootout on Friday they can breathe a bit easier as they head into this gauntlet of a schedule. They have given themselves at least some slight room for error.

"I guess it's better early than late to get the West Coast trip out of the way," Ward told after making 41 saves Friday. "In order to be successful in this League you have to be able to win on the road. You don't want to bury yourself into a hole early in the season because you've got this road trip, so you've got to be able to win some hockey games."
"From the start here (in Helsinki) to the West Coast trip and then to starting at home against Washington and Pittsburgh, it's just like, how much can you guys handle in one month?" -- Joe Corvo
The trip to Helsinki was good for the Hurricanes in more than just the win-loss column. They used it to come together as a team, which is essential for a group that had seven players who are 25 or younger in the lineup both nights in Finland. Four of those players (Jeff Skinner, Zac Dalpe, Drayson Bowman and Jamie McBain) are Calder eligible.

"We've got some challenges ahead this month for our group, but hopefully we're young enough and don't have any idea of what we're up against so we can have some fun, win some games, and play hard," said Staal, the captain who still falls into that 25-and-under category. "I think that's a capable thing with this group and we look forward to the challenge."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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