Devils vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Gameday: Canes Can Govern Mood of Long Summer

Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 12:16 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Canes Can Govern Mood of Long Summer
The Carolina Hurricanes are unfortunately in for another long summer.

Michael Smith
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This time around, however, they still have four remaining games to set the mood heading into the off-season.

“We knew for awhile we were chasing our tails,” Patrick Dwyer said. “There was always a chance, but now that we’re out, we have to regroup and play these next four games like there is something at the end of the road.”

Head coach Kirk Muller said it would be a mental battle for the group of 22 in the locker room who, also physically, have to prepare for the second half of a back-to-back set where there are no tangible results in sight.

“At the end of the day when [going to the playoffs] doesn’t happen, it is deflating, and it’s tough mentally, but the way they get through it is continue to be a professional,” Muller said. “You really need to push each other to finish strong.”

So that’s what the team plans on doing.

Don’t expect to see big lineup changes, drastic line shuffling or altering of roles. Don’t expect these games to be last-ditch tryouts for some players, as Muller said his staff already has a “pretty good judge of everything." And don’t expect to see the team back off of the level they’ve sustained in the past few months.

“I just said to the guys, ‘We’ve made some really good strides, and I think there’s a lot of positive things,’” Muller said. “’Let’s finish on a good note. Too many good things have happened. We’re in the right direction.’”

Though missing the playoffs is never the goal of any team in any sports league, learning their fate with a week remaining in the regular season gives the Canes control over the tone of their summer. Last season, they were not afforded that luxury, as they saw their playoff hopes slip out of their grasp in the ill-fated final game.

“Last year, going into that final game with our fate in our hands and to come out of that game the way we did, it was very disappointing for us,” Dwyer said. “Either way you take it, missing the playoffs is never a fun experience.

“Ending on a good note is always a better thing than sitting with a sour taste in your mouth throughout the summer. It’s going to be a long summer, there’s no doubt about that. So the higher note we can go out on, the better.”

If nothing else, the Canes are building toward a promising campaign come October.

“There is that excitement of when we do buy into the systems and bring that energy, we can beat anyone,” Dwyer said. “It’s important to finish these games up strong for confidence going into next year.”

“I’m a positive guy in nature. I see all the good things. We deal with everything day-to-day, and are we a better team than we were yesterday?” Muller said. “And also, as a coach, you look a little bit more at the big picture and what’s in store for next year. It’s tough, but we’re excited about a lot of stuff.”

Two of the team’s remaining four games will be in the friendly confines of PNC Arena, which gives the team yet another reason not to lethargically trudge into the off-season.

“Last year, the disappointing loss, the fans were upset going through the summer,” Dwyer said. “So we’ll come out and give them two good games before the summer break and build that excitement around the community and around the area. They’ve always supported us, so it’d be nice to go out and show them two good games.”

Brian Boucher will be between the pipes tonight, just his second start since returning from an early December injury. In his most recent start, he made 23 saves on 26 shots in Minnesota in a 5-3 win. It was his first win as a Hurricane.

“You’ve got to play for a guy like that,” Muller said. “There’s always something you’ve got to play for.

“The easy thing to do is play at 80 percent right now. What we want to see is guys play right to the end.”




1 x - NYR 73 47 19 7 224 168 101
2 MTL 75 46 21 8 197 167 100
3 TBL 75 46 22 7 244 194 99
4 NYI 75 44 26 5 228 208 93
5 PIT 74 40 23 11 204 186 91
6 DET 73 39 22 12 212 201 90
7 WSH 74 40 24 10 215 182 90
8 OTT 73 37 25 11 213 195 85
9 BOS 74 36 25 13 195 193 85
10 FLA 74 34 26 14 184 202 82
11 PHI 75 30 29 16 196 216 76
12 NJD 74 31 31 12 166 189 74
13 CBJ 73 34 35 4 198 228 72
14 CAR 73 27 36 10 170 201 64
15 TOR 75 27 42 6 194 241 60
16 BUF 74 20 46 8 141 249 48


E. Staal 68 20 27 -13 47
J. Faulk 73 14 32 -18 46
E. Lindholm 72 16 20 -21 36
J. Skinner 68 18 12 -22 30
V. Rask 71 11 19 -12 30
R. Nash 67 8 17 -10 25
N. Gerbe 69 7 17 -13 24
J. McClement 73 7 13 -3 20
A. Nestrasil 45 7 13 4 20
J. Staal 37 4 15 -9 19
C. Ward 19 21 5 .910 2.43
A. Khudobin 8 15 5 .903 2.62