Captain Rod Brind'Amour will again center the top line and it's expected that he'll have Ray Whitney on his left wing and Justin Williams on his right. Both Brind'Amour, 37, and Williams, 25, have thrived in Carolina since being traded from the Philadelphia Flyers and Whitney, 35, is coming off a career-best season of 32 goals and 83 points. A lot of teams would be glad to have a first line as good as Carolina's second line of Eric Staal centering left winger Cory Stillman and right winger Erik Cole. Matt Cullen returns from the New York Rangers to center the third line of left winger Andrew Ladd and right winger Scott Walker. Free agent Jeff Hamilton was signed to center the fourth line, which could see Chad Larose on the left wing and Craig Adams on the right side.
The Hurricanes often use a forward at the point on the power play. It's one of the reasons they wanted to get Cullen back in the fold. He had six power-play goals in the 2004 Conference and Stanley Cup Finals. Whitney also played the point on power plays. Upfront, the Hurricanes will use Staal, Stillman, Brind'Amour, Williams, Cole, Ladd and Hamilton when up a man.
Brind'Amour, Williams, Chad Larose and Craig Adams are the key penalty-killing forwards. Staal is also very good and may see more time there this year. Hamilton is a good two-way player who will help lessen the load on the top-line players.
Up and Coming
Brandon Sutter -- A veteran hockey man was watching the recent Canada-Russia series when he saw a penalty-killing player block a shot that ricocheted back to the defense. The struck player staggered up and blocked the next shot, pushed it forward and played it down the ice. The observer muttered; "Why am I not surprised that guy is a Sutter?" Brandon Sutter, 18, was one of Canada's most important forwards in the series. Sutter was Carolina's first pick, 11th overall, in the 2007 Entry Draft. Logic says he goes back to juniors for his final season, but he's likely to make that a tough decision.
Ryan Bayda -- Albany's top goal scorer last year, had a goal and an assist in nine games with the Hurricanes last season. Skating and forechecking were considered his prime talents so Carolina's management has to be pleased with his scoring last year.
Jakub Petruzalek -- Was acquired in a deal for Brad Isbister early last season. He had 10 goals and 20 assists for Hartford and Albany. He's kind of undersized and not a great scorer, but he keeps giving teams reason to sign him.
Erik Cole -- You just get the feeling that Erik Cole is ready for a big, breakout season. He scored 30 goals in 60 games in 2005-06 and 29 in 71 games last season. Cole seems poised to take his game to the next level this season, using his hardnosed game to get to 40 goals, giving the Hurricanes another dangerous offensive weapon.