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Hurricanes look to buck disappointing Game 1 trend

by Mike G. Morreale /

"We have to be ready right from the drop of the puck and be able to carry it out. It's going to be a fun atmosphere (in Pittsburgh) and I'm looking forward to it. We just have to be ready."
-- Carolina goalie Cam Ward

PITTSBURGH -- On the way to their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance in three seasons, the Carolina Hurricanes have experienced their share of playoff disappointment.

The 'Canes have lost the opener in each of their previous series this spring, dropping 4-1 decisions to the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins. Game 1 (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS) Monday night against the Penguins presents an opportunity to break that streak.

"Yeah, that's something we could learn from the previous two rounds, that we weren't really ready for that Game 1, but still got away with it," Carolina goalie Cam Ward said. "Who knows if you get away with it at this stage. We have to be ready right from the drop of the puck and be able to carry it out. It's going to be a fun atmosphere (in Pittsburgh) and I'm looking forward to it. We just have to be ready."

The Hurricanes appeared fresh and ready to go during their Monday morning skate, including captain Rod Brind'Amour, who needed 10 stitches to close a gash just below his right eye that he received from an errant puck late in overtime of his team's Game 7 victory over Boston.

"Obviously, you don't want to get off to the starts we've had in Game 1 in the previous two rounds, but every series is its own and you start off fresh," Brind'Amour said. "After Game 1, we'll be moving on to Game 2 and, whatever happens, we'll be taking the same approach for the most part. But we do want to try and get that first one, that's for sure."

Brind'Amour will be in the lineup on Monday, playing without a visor.

"I probably should (be wearing a visor), but I've tried it before and it just doesn't feel comfortable for me," Brind'Amour, 38, said. "Maybe it's because I've been around too long and I'm kind of stuck in my ways, but we'll be all right."

In a Game 1 loss to the Devils on April 15, the Hurricanes were outshot, 39-19, and dug themselves a 3-0 hole before finally getting on the scoreboard in a game that was long over. The opener against the Bruins in the East semifinals was a little different as the 'Canes were in a 1-1 tie after one period before yielding three unanswered goals over the final two periods. Carolina did finish with 27-24 advantage in shots, but failed to generate many good scoring opportunities.

Jussi Jokinen, who has 10 points (six goals) in 14 postseason games, knows a good start would certainly go a long way against a team with plenty of offensive firepower.

"When you think about the previous Game 1s, it doesn't make any sense to give a game like we have," Jokinen said. "We've been concentrating on that and must forget the last series. We just need to be mentally and physically ready and that's what we are today (Monday)."

Defenseman Joni Pitkanen said his team will take a better mental approach into their opener against the Penguins, something they didn't do in their previous two series'.

"In the last couple of series, we weren't ready the first game and we know we have to focus the minute the puck drops (on Monday) because our last two efforts in Game 1 weren't good enough," Pitkanen said. "I don't know the problem, but we didn't skate well and weren't hitting and that, to me, was the difference. I think it was more mental than anything else; we weren't ready to play. I think this little (three-day) layoff was a good thing as it enabled us to rest up a bit. We're ready now."

Contact Mike Morreale at
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