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Tracking the Storm

Westgarth Finds Friendly Faces, Places with Canes

Wednesday, 01.16.2013 / 4:45 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Westgarth Finds Friendly Faces, Places with Canes
Late last week after an informal skate at Raleigh Center Ice, Kevin Westgarth walked over to the Hurricanes locker room, shook each player’s hand and said his goodbyes. He was headed to Los Angeles in preparation for training camp.

Michael Smith
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Monday, he found himself back in Raleigh as a member of the team rather than a visitor in the dressing room.

The Canes acquired Westgarth from the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday in exchange for Anthony Stewart and two draft picks, a move designed to bolster the team’s long-desired grit and toughness in the bottom six.

“It’s clearly been a bit of a whirlwind, which has been my favorite and probably most apt description,” Westgarth said Monday. “It’s pretty exciting to be part of a new group with a lot of expectation and excitement around it.”

The 28-year-old forward leaves behind the defending Stanley Cup Champion Kings, an organization he has been a part of since signing with them as an undrafted free agent on March 16, 2007. Entering his seventh professional season, Westgarth logged 25 games with Los Angeles in 2011-12, accumulating a goal, an assist and 39 penalty minutes. In total, the Amhurstberg, Ontario, native has earned five points (1g, 4a) and 153 penalty minutes in 90 career NHL games.

“It’s incredibly tough to leave a team and guys that you’ve been with for so long. On the flip side of that, it felt good to have that sense of success and go out with that feather in our caps,” he said. “Most of those guys I’ve known the last three, four, five even six years. It’s something I’ll never forget. You can ask the guys that were part of it here, and they’ll say the same thing. You’re always united with those guys in a certain way. I’ll never forget those guys, and I’ll always count them as friends.”

In a way, though, this trade couldn’t have worked out better for Westgarth, as he is coming to an area in which he already resides and to a team in which he already has a number of acquaintances.

“I’m not coming in blind, and I don’t have to go house hunting today,” Westgarth said. “I can just be a little more settled and ready to go when the puck drops Saturday.

“It’s definitely a bonus not to have to worry about all the logistical stuff,” he continued. “It’s kind of a headache when you get to a new city, trying to figure stuff about.”

Westgarth, married to the daughter of former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, has spent his summers in the Triangle for the last few years. After getting in touch with defenseman Jay Harrison through the NHLPA, Westgarth joined a small group of Hurricanes skating at RCI.

“I got to meet a bunch of the guys that were here or in and out through the summer,” he said. “Whether you know it or not, sometimes through osmosis you kind of get to know guys’ tendencies and hopefully that helps.”

From these standpoints, Westgarth is uniquely embedded with his new team, despite putting on the Canes sweater for the first time on Monday.

“I’m excited [to be with Carolina]. It’s a hell of a team here,” he said. “They brought in some big pieces to the puzzle over the summer.”

In the first few days of a compressed training camp, Westgarth has been cycled in and out of the fourth line. While his exact role on the team remains to be seen, his presence and known physicality should open up room for guys like Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin to make the skilled plays they are capable of without being hassled.

Ultimately, considering the inherent difficulties of being traded, Westgarth is happy to have landed in such a fortuitous spot.

“I see a lot of talent in this room, a lot of hard workers and some great chemistry already,” he said. “It will be really exciting to see what we can do this year.”



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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 74 47 20 7 226 172 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 PIT 75 41 23 11 207 188 93
5 NYI 76 44 27 5 230 211 93
6 DET 74 40 22 12 216 201 92
7 WSH 75 40 25 10 218 186 90
8 BOS 75 37 25 13 199 195 87
9 OTT 74 37 25 12 216 199 86
10 FLA 75 34 26 15 186 205 83
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 75 31 32 12 167 192 74
14 CAR 74 28 36 10 173 202 66
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 74 20 46 8 141 249 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 69 21 28 -11 49
J. Faulk 74 15 32 -17 47
E. Lindholm 73 16 21 -19 37
J. Skinner 69 18 13 -21 31
V. Rask 72 11 20 -11 31
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
N. Gerbe 70 7 17 -13 24
J. McClement 74 7 13 -3 20
A. Nestrasil 46 7 13 4 20
J. Staal 38 4 16 -7 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 20 21 5 .911 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 15 5 .903 2.62