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Gameday: Hurricanes vs. Penguins

Canes Wrap Up Three-Week Stretch of Playing Game at Least Every Other Day

Saturday, 12.3.2011 / 1:12 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Hurricanes vs. Penguins
Since Nov. 11, the Carolina Hurricanes have played a game at least every other day. That stretch comes to a close tonight with the Pittsburgh Penguins in town; following tonight’s game, the Canes will have two days in between their next game in Calgary on Tuesday night.

Michael Smith
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Playing every other day gets the players into a certain rhythm, similar to the Stanley Cup Playoffs when there is often just one day in between each game. For new head coach Kirk Muller, playing every other day this week hasn’t given him much of a chance to get settled in.

“It would have been nice, to be honest with you, to have a few more practices,” he said. “If we did, we probably could have worked more on systems. I would really love to have more time on the power play.

“We knew that tonight’s game and the last couple were going to be more on getting the guys feeling good about themselves, getting them energized, get some fun, play hard and from there we can take the little parts of the game that we can just start pecking away at. In the same token, we need wins.”

After a couple of high-tempo practices on Wednesday and Friday, Muller gave the team the morning off today in advance of a 7:00 p.m. game time.

“I’m not that big of a fan of morning skates, anyways,” he said. “I think save it for the night.”

In such a grinding stretch that the Canes have been through in the last three weeks, a morning off might be just what the team needs to end their four-game regulation losing skid.

Since Nov. 11 when the Hurricanes started playing at least every other day, the team has gone 3-8-1. One of those wins came against the Penguins, a 5-3 victory at the RBC Center. Cam Ward made 37 saves on 40 shots, and Eric Staal scored the game-winning goal.

Staal is above a point-per-game player versus Pittsburgh, as he’s recorded 30 points (13g, 17a) in 28 games. In his last three games, Staal has recorded 4 points (1g, 3a) and is even in that stretch.

The Hurricanes spent practice yesterday going over more system tweaks and running special teams at either end of the ice. The Canes only had one power play opportunity on Thursday night, but Muller still recognized different aspects he wanted to adjust.

“I think it’s gradually happening right now,” Muller said of employing his ideas. “We’ve implemented a few different things on special teams. We’ve talked about a few things on our 5-on-5 systems. You’ll start to see some different looks [on our lines].

It can’t be overnight, so we have to gradually feed things in,” he said.

After tonight, the Hurricanes plan to have an off-day tomorrow before flying to Calgary on Monday, where they will practice mid-afternoon. They’ll spend the week in Canada during a four-game road trip, before returning to Raleigh for the next home game on Dec. 15.

When asked if an extended road trip is what the team needed, Muller smiled and said, “Yep.”

“A lot of these guys will see their families and get reassurance,” he said. “It’s a good time to get the guys out. It’s going to be a really good time for guys like John [MacLean] and I that are new to get out of the office to sit down with the guys and get to know them and the staff.

“I believe in real team bonding, and that will be what my big objective is – to really get to know these guys and jell.”

ROSTER NOTES

Muller wouldn’t say with certainty who would start in net tonight for the Hurricanes, but Ward is the likely choice. Ward has started in 23 games this season, including seven games in a row coming into tonight. He started eight games in a row from the first of November until Brian Boucher was in net against Buffalo on Nov. 18.

Jay Harrison continues to be day-to-day with his upper-body injury. He practiced with the team earlier in the week but did not skate yesterday.

Muller said Jamie McBain has been held out of the lineup in the last two games to give some veteran defensemen a “clean slate.” He did not give any word as to who would be the healthy scratch on defense tonight.

“I told them, ‘Don’t go on the fact that I’m a new guy coming in and I’m judging your play from before,’” he said. “I’m just giving the veterans the first crack, and then we’ll make judgment calls from there.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
N. Hanifin 79 4 18 -14 22
J. Slavin 63 2 18 1 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81