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Life without Williams, Practice Notes

Thursday, 09.18.2008 / 12:08 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Life without Williams, Practice Notes

Post-Skate Video

On the eve of the official start to training camp (photos and physicals are tomorrow) there were mixed emotions in the Hurricanes’ locker room following Thursday morning’s informal skate.

Paul Branecky
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On one hand, the players are all excited to start the new season and return to the playoffs.  On the other, they’re still adjusting to the fact that Justin Williams won’t be around for the next four to six months.

Williams had been participating in the informal skates himself, but ruptured his Achilles tendon during an off-ice workout yesterday and will undergo surgery today.  He hasn’t played a full NHL game since December 18.

”For a guy like Williams, for that to happen to him is just so tough and awful,” said Chad LaRose.  “It was unexpected, and what are you going to do about it?  He’s going to be down for a while, and now it’s just how other guys in the room have to pick it up for his loss.”

Defenseman Tim Gleason was there when it happened, but didn’t realize the severity of it until much later.

”It was like a strain at first so I didn’t think much of it, and then I heard later that it was what it was,” Gleason said.  “It’s a bummer.  There’s no words to say to him, I’m sure he’s just broken.  But life goes on.  If he can get back fast fine, if not then we’ll deal with it.

“We have guys in this dressing room that are willing to work hard and that’s part of this organization – they’re strong in every position.  I’m sure anybody that’s willing to grab that opportunity to play, I’m sure they’ll do a great job.”

That was true last season as several River Rats, such as Keith Aucoin, Ryan Bayda and Tim Conboy all exceeded expectations and helped soften the blow.  There’s no question Williams is an extremely difficult player to replace, but several players will go into training camp with the opportunity to do just that.

The Canes think Patrick Eaves, fully recovered from last year’s shoulder problems has a chance to have a very good season, and he’s one player that could see an increased role on the team.  Eaves and Williams are often compared to one another due to their gritty two-way play.

”A healthy Patrick Eaves is a real bonus for our team,” said GM Jim Rutherford prior to Williams' injury.  “He has real good hockey sense, he plays a real aggressive game.  He’s already scored over 20 goals in this league in one season and we would expect him to get back to that level.  The biggest thing for him with the style he plays is staying healthy.  I’ve seen him now, and he looks great.”

Outside of the current roster, the opportunity has much improved for prospect Drayson Bowman, tryout Jeff O’Neill and new signing Matt Murley. 

Some notes from today’s skate:

  • Speaking of Murley, I only caught a small part of Thursday’s scrimmage, but he had me trying to dig up a roster to try and figure out who number 21 was.  From what I saw, he showed good puckhandling skills and positioning.  According to Murley as he came off the ice, he’s been on the winning scrimmage team three days in a row.

  • A few more languages in the Hurricanes locker room now than there used to be.  Some of the existing European players have found friends, as Frank Kaberle and Josef Melichar were conversing in Czech, while Tuomo Ruutu and Joni Pitkanen spoke Finnish.  Pitkanen and Ruutu know each other from playing on the Finnish national team.

  • In addition to Ruutu, Pitkanen also knows Williams and Dennis Seidenberg from their time in Philadelphia together.

    ”I heard yesterday what happened and it was very disappointing,” said Pitkanen of Williams.  “I know how good a player he is, but I think we have a lot of good players here.  With him coming back we’ll be stronger.”

    Besides playing together with the Flyers, Pitkanen and Seidenberg also played together on the team’s AHL affiliate, winning a Calder Cup together during the lockout year.

  • More on Pitkanen – he’s long been an admirer of the Hurricanes’ style of play, which suits him perfectly as an offensive-minded player.

    ”When I played with the Flyers we always played against the Hurricanes, and I know there’s a lot of good skaters and high-skilled players,” he said.  “I’m very excited to play with these guys.”
  • Gleason is aware of his increased role on the blueline, and welcomes it with open arms.

    ”I believe they want more responsibility from me, which I’m willing to accept for sure and I’m excited about it,” he said.  “Playing time, if I can get up to 20-some minutes, that’s awesome.  That’s what I want and that’s what I’m working for.  It’s a job to be taken and I definitely want it."




1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 55 32 17 6 153 127 70
3 NYR 55 31 18 6 157 140 68
4 DET 55 28 18 9 138 134 65
5 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
6 TBL 54 30 20 4 144 130 64
7 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
8 PIT 54 28 19 7 139 136 63
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 CAR 55 24 21 10 131 143 58
11 MTL 56 27 25 4 151 151 58
12 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 BUF 56 22 28 6 131 155 50
15 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47


J. Faulk 54 15 19 -13 34
J. Skinner 55 19 12 -3 31
V. Rask 53 12 19 0 31
J. Staal 55 12 19 7 31
K. Versteeg 54 10 21 1 31
E. Staal 55 9 21 1 30
E. Lindholm 55 8 16 -9 24
A. Nestrasil 48 8 12 0 20
J. Nordstrom 44 5 10 2 15
R. Hainsey 55 3 11 -12 14
C. Ward 15 11 7 .909 2.34
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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