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Blues vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

The New Defense: Part One

Friday, 09.05.2008 / 1:55 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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The New Defense: Part One

Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford spent most of the offseason retooling the team’s defense.  While the goal of getting younger accomplished itself when Glen Wesley (39) retired and Bret Hedican (38) departed soon after the season ended, adding some mobility and offensive skill was still an issue.

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Rutherford accomplished that by bringing 24-year-old Joni Pitkanen in from Edmonton in exchange for Erik Cole, but the rebuilding process had already begun in that regard. 

Joe Corvo came over last season in a trade with Ottawa and immediately filled a long-open void in the team’s lineup - a skilled puckhandler with offensive capabilities, similar to Pitkanen. 

Through those two trades, the Canes went from having no defensemen with that skill set to having two can cause as much havoc on the offensive end as they prevent in their own. 

To demonstrate that change in dynamic, consider that Corvo’s 21 points as a Cane were just one less than the Hurricanes’ next most prolific scorer from the blue line, Frantisek Kaberle.  Corvo played only 23 games with Carolina.  Kaberle played 80.

“Our transition game will be much stronger,” said Rutherford.  “We’ve always looked for mobile, puck-moving defensemen and power play guys. We’ve had guys that have been OK, but not at the level of Joe Corvo and Joni Pitkanen.  These are two guys that I don’t think it’s unreasonable to both have 50-point seasons.”

Corvo ended up with a career high 48 points with Ottawa and Carolina last season, so 50 wouldn’t be a stretch at all, especially if he produces like he did after arriving in Raleigh.  That mark is also attainable for Pitkanen, who posted his best offensive season with 46 points with the 2005-06 Philadelphia Flyers.

While such things won’t be made certain until training camp is well underway, Corvo and Pitkanen, along with Matt Cullen (36 assists in 59 games), should cause other teams plenty of trouble while running the point on the power play.

Rutherford also indicated that formerly estranged defenseman Anton Babchuk, back from a year in a Russia and known for his hard shot, could be in that mix as well.

”We’ve got Pitkanen and Corvo ahead of him on the power play, but if he’s playing well there’s no reason he couldn’t be on the second unit and do well there,” said Rutherford.

At any rate, the days of the five-forward power play seem to be over.

We'll be back starting Monday with parts 2 and 3 as well plenty more content to preview the coming season.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 48 27 13 8 143 124 62
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 48 18 22 8 109 135 44
15 CAR 47 17 25 5 102 122 39
16 BUF 49 14 32 3 92 174 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 42 16 14 -6 30
J. Faulk 47 9 19 -13 28
E. Lindholm 47 9 11 -11 20
J. Tlusty 40 12 7 -11 19
J. Skinner 42 10 9 -7 19
R. Nash 47 7 12 -4 19
N. Gerbe 43 5 13 -3 18
V. Rask 47 6 9 -10 15
A. Sekera 45 1 14 -6 15
C. Terry 34 6 3 -3 9
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 6 8 2 .918 2.30
C. Ward 11 17 3 .911 2.45