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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 WSH 54 40 10 4 178 124 84
2 FLA 56 32 18 6 153 132 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 NJD 57 29 21 7 125 124 65
7 TBL 54 30 20 4 144 130 64
8 NYI 54 29 19 6 153 137 64
9 PIT 54 28 19 7 139 136 63
10 CAR 56 25 21 10 137 146 60
11 PHI 54 24 20 10 128 140 58
12 MTL 56 27 25 4 151 151 58
13 OTT 57 25 26 6 159 177 56
14 BUF 57 23 28 6 135 156 52
15 CBJ 57 23 28 6 144 175 52
16 TOR 54 20 25 9 127 151 49

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 54 15 19 -13 34
V. Rask 54 14 19 2 33
J. Staal 56 12 21 8 33
J. Skinner 56 19 13 -1 32
K. Versteeg 55 11 21 1 32
E. Staal 56 9 21 0 30
E. Lindholm 56 8 17 -9 25
A. Nestrasil 49 9 12 1 21
J. Nordstrom 45 5 11 2 16
R. Hainsey 56 3 11 -11 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 16 11 7 .909 2.35
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74