The Carolina Hurricanes' first on-ice session of training camp featured two important newcomers.
Former Boston Bruins goaltender Anton Khudobin and ex-Buffalo Sabres defenseman Andrej Sekera were out on the ice with the morning group.
Both players will play key roles in Carolina. Khudobin will provide insurance for goaltender Cam Ward, who missed more than half of last season with a sprained MCL. Although he has just 21 games of NHL experience, Khudobin's numbers have been eye-popping: a 2.03 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. Ward is known for carrying a heavy workload, but the Hurricanes would like to rely on a backup who can shoulder enough games to take the heat off the starter.
"Hopefully I'm going to play more and more," said Khudobin, who saw action in 14 games for the Bruins last season. "You're changing teams, but your job is still the same - stopping pucks. Sometimes it's good to have some changes."
Sekera, too, was ready for a change. He came to the Hurricanes in a June 30 trade with the Sabres, in exchange for defenseman Jamie McBain and a second-round pick in the 2013 draft.
"I'm looking forward to it. New place, new people," Sekera said. "I have to prove to them that I'm worth it, that I should be playing here."
Sekera is part of a re-vamped defense, along with former Toronto Maple Leaf Mike Komisarek. The Hurricanes are counting on Sekera as a steady presence on the blue line.
"I try to play a simple game and skate a lot," Sekera said. "Just be simple in our zone make the first pass as quick as I can."
Like Khudobin, Sekera will use these first days of camp to adjust to a new team. Although they didn't play in the same division, the Sabres and Hurricanes have a lingering rivalry, dating back to the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals.
"It's always a little bit strange when you battle against a team, then come and join the team," Sekera said. "But I really like the team because they skate really well and they like to play an offensive game. That's what I'm looking forward to."
Khudobin's transition to Carolina will be eased by a luxury he's never enjoyed - a teammate who speaks the same language. Already, he's making the most of sharing the locker room with forward Alexander Semin.
"In my six years here, I didn't play with any Russian guys, so it's a nice feeling," Khudobin said. "It's great to talk a little bit in my own language."