Bruins vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Change for the Better

Thursday, 08.27.2009 / 2:07 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Change for the Better
It’s hard to imagine an offseason go more according to plan than this one did for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Paul Branecky
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The core of the team is largely unchanged from the Conference Finals team of three months ago, with a number of intriguing players added to shore up the depth chart. Whether it be size, toughness, character or leadership, the additions of Andrew Alberts, Tom Kostopoulos, Aaron Ward and Stephan Yelle all bring something valuable to the table, complementing the pieces that were already in place

Long story short, today’s Canes are what the team’s management hoped they would be.

“Everyone kind of recognized where we needed to improve our team, and I think Mr. Rutherford was up front about that all along,” said Erik Cole. “He went out and did exactly what he said he was going to do.”

Adding size was arguably the top priority. From the draft on, Hurricanes players in Raleigh, Albany and the junior and college ranks are on average a lot bigger than they were one year ago.

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That’s not to say they’re a bunch of lugs who can’t play.

“We’ve been a big team before, but I don’t think we’ve had the same amount of skill and speed to complement it as we do now,” said Cole, now an eight-year Canes veteran. “I think that will be the biggest difference.”

Cole is one of a handful of players who have been skating at the RecZone in advance of training camp, which officially begins on September 12 when players report for physicals. Also attending Thursday’s skate were Rod Brind’Amour, Tim Conboy, Joe Corvo, Chad LaRose, Sergei Samsonov, Scott Walker, Niclas Wallin, Aaron Ward and Ray Whitney. 

Off the roster, Bates Battaglia and his brother Anthony resumed their annual ritual of skating with the team. With Carolina’s regular goaltenders not participating, practice goaltender Jorge Alves and Jeff Zatkoff, a Los Angeles Kings prospect whose girlfriend lives in Cary, filled the nets.

That makes Ward the only “new guy” in town, not that he can fairly be called that given that his family never left town when he signed elsewhere in July of 2006. Still, when the new players do arrive, they shouldn’t have any problem fitting in.

“When you keep the core of the team together, it’s easier to pick up where you left off and for other guys to fit in,” said Cole. “We’ve always had a good environment for that in this locker room.”

If any area of the roster has gone through significant changes, it’s on defense, where Alberts and Ward will fill the skates of Anton Babchuk and Dennis Seidenberg. It’s a unit that seems to look quite different every year - except for one constant.

“For all us old goats, everything comes to an end at some time,” said Niclas Wallin, who is entering his ninth year with Carolina. “Guys like Glen Wesley and Bret Hedican are done playing, and others have moved on as well. I know the new guys we have now are character guys and good guys, because we’ve always had that strategy.”

Having participated in each of the Hurricanes’ long playoff runs – the 2002 finals, 2006 championship and 2009 conference finals – Wallin may have a better sense than anyone on what it takes to be successful. Although admittedly sad to see a few friends leave the team, he’s also excited about the new additions.

“It looks really good, but at the same time we had a good team last year,” he said. “We did a lot of good things last year, and now we’ve built on that.”

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 74 47 20 7 226 172 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 PIT 75 41 23 11 207 188 93
5 NYI 76 44 27 5 230 211 93
6 DET 74 40 22 12 216 201 92
7 WSH 75 40 25 10 218 186 90
8 BOS 75 37 25 13 199 195 87
9 OTT 74 37 25 12 216 199 86
10 FLA 75 34 26 15 186 205 83
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 75 31 32 12 167 192 74
14 CAR 74 28 36 10 173 202 66
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 75 20 47 8 144 254 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 69 21 28 -11 49
J. Faulk 74 15 32 -17 47
E. Lindholm 73 16 21 -19 37
J. Skinner 69 18 13 -21 31
V. Rask 72 11 20 -11 31
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
N. Gerbe 70 7 17 -13 24
J. McClement 74 7 13 -3 20
A. Nestrasil 46 7 13 4 20
J. Staal 38 4 16 -7 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 20 21 5 .911 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 15 5 .903 2.62