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November 2011 Monthly Report

Canes Turning Page on Inconsistent Month

Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 4:05 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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November 2011 Monthly Report
The Carolina Hurricanes came into the month of November looking to establish a consistent game – especially with 10 of 15 games at the RBC Center – and work their way into playoff position.

Michael Smith
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However, two multi-game losing streaks and wildly erratic play dug the Canes into a hole and forced change behind the bench, as Kirk Muller became the new head coach of the team on Monday.

A day later, the Hurricanes dropped their third game in a row to finish November with just four wins in 15 games. The best thing for the team to do at this point is to turn the page on what was a disappointing month and look ahead toward the balance of the season.

“No, it certainly hasn’t [been a good month],” Cam Ward said. “It hasn’t been a whole lot of fun around here, but you’ve got to do your best to remain positive.”

NOV. 1 vs. TAMPA BAY 4-2 W
NOV. 6 vs. DALLAS 5-2 L
NOV. 8 at NEW JERSEY 3-2 L
NOV. 11 at NY RANGERS 5-1 L
NOV. 12 vs. PITTSBURGH 5-3 W
NOV. 16 at MONTREAL 4-0 L
NOV. 18 vs. BUFFALO 1-0 L
NOV. 20 vs. TORONTO 3-2 W
NOV. 23 vs. MONTREAL 4-3 SOL
NOV. 25 vs. WINNIPEG 3-1 L
NOV. 27 at OTTAWA 4-3 L
NOV. 29 vs. FLORIDA 3-1 L
Positive is the message that Muller has been preaching in his first few days as head coach. It’s a tough sell amid the current standing of the team and all that has happened this week, but it’s one that the players are buying into as they look to get back in the win column.

“There’s no use in us looking back now. There’s nothing we can do about that,” said Jim Rutherford, President and General Manager of the Hurricanes. “We’ve dug ourselves a hole, and the obvious is that we have to put a string of games together to get back to .500. And then once we get there, we have to set a goal to finish 10-12 games above .500 to give us a chance to make the playoffs.”

Digging a Hole

The Hurricanes emerged from October playing .500 hockey, something they weren’t happy with but would certainly take at this point when looking back on November. At the time, Rutherford said the team had positioned itself well to move up in the standings. Then-head coach Paul Maurice noted that the Canes had been in nearly every game going into the third period. And the team believed they were playing well and was focused on putting together a full 60 minutes.

For whatever reason, things took a downturn in November. The 4-0 loss in Montreal on the 16th was what Maurice called “rock bottom.” After that game, the team responded with three straight games of good effort, two of which they won. After that, though, the inconsistency crept back into their game.

Presently, Muller has the team focused on the basics – putting forth 60 minutes worth of his up-tempo style of play. It’s something he said the team struggled with on Tuesday against Florida but will begin to come together as he settles in.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ve got a lot of things to work on, but we’ve got to find ways in the mean time to get some wins,” he said.

“The sooner we can dig ourselves out of the hole and get back to .500, it gives us a reasonable chance to get in the race,” Rutherford said.

New Face(s) and More Coming?

In another effort to shake things up, the Hurricanes picked up winger Andreas Nodl off waivers on Tuesday. Nodl, who scored 11 goals with Philadelphia last season, hasn’t seen much ice time for them this year, but Rutherford sees the possibility of a consistent forward.

“He’s a guy that, when we look at our reports, we’ve had good reports on him for the last few years,” he said. “We see him as, at a minimum, a real good fourth line player, but a guy that has the skill level and upside that could get him into our top nine if the situation presents itself.”

The 24-year-old, Austrian-born winger brings speed and versatility to the table, as he can play both the right and left side. As a second-round pick, he also displays potential offensive upside.

“He’s not a player that’s a team-changer but certainly a player that can help us,” Rutherford said.

Finding that team-changer is difficult, especially considering the budget and what the Hurricanes would have to give up in order to receive. But Rutherford is constantly exploring options, and the steady play of a 19-year-old defenseman has opened the door for more moves to happen.

Faulk “Re-Shapes” Defense

Justin Faulk skated in just three games for the Canes in October, the team’s first three of the season. He was then scratched before being assigned to Charlotte later in the month. He played in 12 games with the Checkers, totaling four goals and two assists (6 points). At the time of his recall on Nov. 17, Faulk led Charlotte defenseman in goals and points.

Though he hasn’t seen the same offensive success in Raleigh, he’s been called upon heavily and has played over 20 minutes in seven straight games, the most being 26:15 against Montreal on Nov. 23.

“The biggest positive to me was to see Faulk come in and play the way he played,” Rutherford said. “To play those kinds of minutes for a 19-year-old defenseman, you don’t see that very often.”

Faulk’s minutes haven’t been limited to just even-strength, either. He’s been positioned on the point on the power play and has been on the ice to kill penalties, as well. The coaching staff and front office’s confidence in the young, U.S.-born defenseman gives the team more options to acquire a forward via trade.

“Because of [Faulk’s play], that kind of re-shapes our defense, and certainly makes a defenseman or two expendable,” Rutherford said. “That’s really what we’re looking at now, seeing if we can move a defenseman for a forward.

“In the ideal world, it’d be a top six guy. That’s pretty hard to find now, but certainly a top nine guy.”

Looking Ahead to December

Fortunately for the Hurricanes, there is still plenty of hockey left to play. Though they sit at 14th in the Eastern Conference, they are just six points out of a playoff spot. They have played the most games in the league, but all they can worry about is what they can control – that starts with stringing wins together.

“We just have to get back to having a good team feeling, and the thing that does that is a few wins,” Rutherford said.

Though not as home-heavy as the November schedule, December offers up 14 games, seven of which are at home. A four-game road trip to Canada that will feature games in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto highlights the first half of the month. Rarely seen Western Conference opponents in the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes will appear in Raleigh in the latter half of December.

Ideally, by the end of this calendar year, the Canes will be back over .500 and looking to move into a playoff spot. But, Muller is taking it day-by-day, making tweaks to what he can whenever time allows.

“We need wins,” he said. “We just need to get a little better in every category right now, and we’ve got to chip away in doing that. But we want to pick up points at the same time.”

JEFF SKINNER 15 6 6 12 +1 JEFF SKINNER 26 10 12 22 -6
CHAD LAROSE 15 5 4 9 -9 JUSSI JOKINEN 23 4 11 15 -1
TUOMO RUUTU 15 4 4 8 +2 CHAD LAROSE 26 6 9 15 -11
ALEXEI PONIKAROVSKY 15 4 3 7 -6 TUOMO RUUTU 26 7 5 12 -1
ERIC STAAL 15 2 5 7 -5 ERIC STAAL 26 5 7 12 -18

November record: 4-10-1, 9 points
Overall record: 8-14-4, 20 points, 5th in Southeast Division, 14th in Eastern Conference (For full standings, click here.)




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 BOS 55 30 19 6 163 150 66
5 DET 55 28 18 9 138 134 65
6 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
7 TBL 54 30 20 4 144 130 64
8 PIT 54 28 19 7 139 136 63
9 NJD 56 28 21 7 124 124 63
10 PHI 54 24 20 10 128 140 58
11 CAR 55 24 21 10 131 143 58
12 MTL 56 27 25 4 151 151 58
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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