Tracking the Storm

Strong Test to Start

Thursday, 10.1.2009 / 12:27 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Strong Test to Start
It’s really no wonder the Canes designed their training camp with the intention of maximizing the team’s focus right off the bat, because that’s when they’ll have potentially their toughest back-to-back set of games for the entire season.

Paul Branecky
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It can’t possibly get much more difficult than Philadelphia and Boston in consecutive days – teams which some pundits are picking to finish first and second in the Eastern Conference in some order. I’ve at least taken a glance at 20 or so ranking and previews from various media outlets, and the lowest I’ve seen either team ranked is fourth.

Only another set of back-to-backs at the end of this month – at Philadelphia on Halloween followed by a home date with San Jose – comes close to that kind of difficulty, at least from where we stand here on the eve of opening night.

Long story short, not a lot of time to get those legs and hands going.

“It’ll force you to define your game and to really be sharp with the style of game that you have to play,” said Coach Paul Maurice. “I don’t think that you can let the talent that those teams will show loose on the ice. We have to be very, very disciplined with what we do.”

At any rate, any of the Canes’ players and coaches will tell you that it doesn’t matter how strong the opponent is as long as they play their game, which is true. They’ve got a number of things going for them, including that they get to start in what should be a jazzed-up atmosphere at home on a Friday night.

Another thing is that, with the start of the season only one day away, I like the way this page looks (no disrespect to Michael Ryan). It’s easy to take that for granted, but remember that that chart had a 30-goal scorer on it until December of last season. OK, I think I’ve successfully said enough about that issue without jinxing anything. Knock on wood, just in case.

Moving along, the only major player in question is Joni Pitkanen, who continues to practice with the team and look just fine in doing so. He’s taken on his expected regular pairing alongside Aaron Ward, moving Jay Harrison back with Tim Conboy on the fourth defensive unit.

“I think the injury is fine, the question is whether he’s practiced enough to get into a full-tilt back-to-back game,” said Maurice. “We’ll answer that tomorrow.”

Even if Pitkanen does suit up, it will be interesting to see what kind of minutes he logs in his first game action of the year. He led the Canes and ranked 15th in the NHL with an average of 24:48 minutes played per game last season. That could be a tall order for opening night.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72