Tracking the Storm

Babchuk, Canes Leave Past Behind

Tuesday, 09.7.2010 / 1:47 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Babchuk, Canes Leave Past Behind
In a summer when more and more players are heading abroad, Anton Babchuk has bucked the trend once again.

Paul Branecky
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The big defenseman from the Ukraine was one of six new arrivals at the RecZone on Tuesday, joining forward Nick Dodge, fellow blueliners Brett Bellemore and Jay Harrison and goaltenders Mike Murphy and Justin Pogge. This season will mark the second time that the 6-foot-5 Babchuk has returned to the Hurricanes organization following an unsuccessful contract negotiation that led him back to Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

“I always wanted to play here in the NHL,” said Babchuk, who agreed to a one-year deal on July 1 that will carry him into his first crack at unrestricted free agency next summer. “When there was an option this summer, I wanted to come.”

In order to do so, Babchuk first had to make sure that he was wanted. In addition to the two years spent with Omsk of the KHL on either side of his 16-goal season with the Canes in 2008-09, he clashed with the organization after refusing a minor-league assignment in 2007.

Those differences of opinion were discussed at a face-to-face meeting in Raleigh involving Babchuk, his agent, Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford and Head Coach Paul Maurice in May, where it was determined that bygones would be bygones.

“I wanted to make sure there were no issues from the past,” recalled Babchuk, now 26 and a new father, of that meeting. “We had a good meal and said that everything was behind us.”

As fate would have it, Babchuk will be going right back to Russia in early October when the Hurricanes face off against SKA St. Petersburg in an exhibition game. That club has been leading the way when it comes to attracting NHL talent, with longtime San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and former Atlanta and Buffalo winger Maxim Afinogenov making the jump this off-season. They join the likes of Alexei Yashin, Sergei Zubov and Andrei Zyuzin on the SKA roster.

Babchuk, who looks to be leaner despite the fact that he reports no change to his official playing weight, says that the speed of the game in the KHL is not much different than in the NHL, but there are other differences.

“It’s maybe not as physical because of the wider ice,” he said. “Also there aren’t guys who are there just to forecheck or anything like that. Every line is trying to score goals.”

Babchuk did some of that himself, leading all Omsk defensemen with nine goals, 22 points, four power-play goals, two game-winning goals and a +17 plus/minus rating over 49 games in the shorter Russian season.  If he can carry that over, he'll again be a significant threat in an already offense-minded defensive corps in Carolina.


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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 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