Tracking the Storm

Muller, Canes Face Florida Again

Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 3:14 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Muller, Canes Face Florida Again
On Tuesday, Nov. 29, Kirk Muller was behind the bench for his first game as a head coach in the National Hockey League, facing a team with which he spent three years in the late 90s – the Florida Panthers. Nearly three weeks later, Muller’s Carolina Hurricanes will size up the Cats once more in an early Sunday evening match-up in South Florida.

Michael Smith
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Since Muller’s coaching debut – a 3-1 loss – the Canes have evolved roster-wise and in their style of play. In the last two games, the team has put forth a full 60-minutes worth of the type of game Muller wants to play.

“Five or six games ago, I didn’t think we could sustain the tempo,” he said. “We had parts of the game when we were going, and then we died off. We were a little fragile.”

In the last two games especially, the team has been anything but fragile. Against Vancouver on Thursday, the Canes climbed back after falling down 2-0 to win 4-3. It was their first win of the season when tied after two periods.

“As I said to them, ‘Don’t worry if you’re up two or down two – keep at it,’” Muller said. “We didn’t have a lull against Toronto or Vancouver, and that’s what we’re looking for – consistency and accountability of staying with the game plan.”

Perhaps what has helped the team sustain that tempo in-game is the way Muller and his coaching staff run practices. Muller’s practices are conducted with the pace of a game, which has helped the team become better passers, read situations more effectively and become better prepared for opponents.

Today in practice, in addition to running power play drills and board scrums, there was a focus on the Canes’ transitional game.

“We’re playing better without the puck. It’s not perfect, but we’re getting there,” Muller said. “So now it’s when we get [the puck], let’s take advantage of it. Let’s be the quick team that goes.”

The Canes will run into that tomorrow evening, against a speedy Panthers team that currently leads the Southeast Division with 40 points (17-9-6). Their top line of Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann has combined for 94 points (38g, 56a). That line had a goal and an assist against the Canes on Nov. 29.

“They can skate. It’s a high-tempo team,” Muller said of the Panthers. “They come after you, and if you’re not ready, they’re going to have the edge on you. The first game that I was here, I saw that. And that’s what we have to be prepared for. They like a quick game.”

Even though there is currently only one team (Florida) from the division above the playoff line in the East, the Canes have just one win in eight games against divisional opponents this season. The Canes would like to change that, and a win tomorrow would give the team its first winning streak since Nov. 21. The key? Muller said to look no further than Thursday’s game.

“Everyone has to bring something,” Muller said. “You can’t just go out, jump over the boards and play the game.

Bryan Allen getting involved. Ward playing the way he did. Ruutu picking it up and being more aggressive. Staalsy is still playing consistency. Bowman is a young kid, takes advantage of his opportunity. That’s, to me, people finding a way to win. And that’s what I was most happy about.”

ODDS AND ENDS

Jay Harrison skated with the team again today. He’s missed the last 10 games with an upper-body injury. Muller said he and the staff would decide tomorrow if he’s ready to enter the lineup. The Canes could dress seven defensemen if that is the case.

Cam Ward donned new Vaughn equipment at the morning skate on Thursday. Today, he continued breaking it in and said he still needs a few more practice sessions before it’s game-ready. A picture of his new gear is below.


SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

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