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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.

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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 WSH 49 36 9 4 161 110 76
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
4 NYR 51 28 18 5 146 132 61
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 NYI 49 26 17 6 134 121 58
7 DET 51 25 18 8 125 130 58
8 NJD 52 26 20 6 117 118 58
9 PIT 50 25 18 7 129 128 57
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 49 23 18 8 117 128 54
12 MTL 52 24 24 4 137 141 52
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 53 15 19 -13 34
V. Rask 51 12 19 1 31
K. Versteeg 52 10 21 1 31
J. Skinner 53 18 12 -3 30
J. Staal 53 12 18 7 30
E. Staal 53 9 21 0 30
E. Lindholm 53 8 16 -8 24
A. Nestrasil 46 7 12 -1 19
J. Nordstrom 42 5 9 2 14
R. Hainsey 53 3 11 -12 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 15 11 5 .905 2.43
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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