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Gameday: A Night of Debuts

Thursday, 03.21.2013 / 12:30 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: A Night of Debuts
In their 30th game of 48 in this shortened season, it’s a night of debuts for the Carolina Hurricanes as Brett Bellemore makes his NHL debut and Tuomo Ruutu makes his season debut.

Michael Smith
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Bellemore, the fourth player to make his NHL debut with the Hurricanes this season, was recalled on Wednesday from the Charlotte Checkers, as Justin Faulk was shelved for two-to-four weeks with a second-degree MCL sprain.

“We were about to take off to Houston to play, and Jeff Daniels caught me in the parking lot and told me then and there,” Bellemore said of when he got the news of his first NHL recall. “After five years in [the AHL], you can’t assume anything.”

Bellemore, 24, follows in the footsteps of his Charlotte teammates Michal Jordan and Chris Terry, who each made their NHL debuts earlier this season.

“They said they loved the experience,” Bellemore said. “They always said it gives them a good reason to try to get back up here.”

And just like Jordan and Terry, Bellemore enters a strange locker room filled with familiar faces. Tonight, he’ll play defense in front of Dan Ellis, a common occurrence from just a few months ago.

“I walk in, and I’ve seen these guys. It helps,” Bellemore said. “You feel a little more confident and a little more at home.”

Prior to the morning skate, assistant coach Dave Lewis took Bellemore, a native of Windsor, Ont., aside, giving him a few quick pointers.

“[He said to] play with confidence, don’t hesitate and just do my thing,” Bellemore said. “If I play my game, everything will work out.”

Though Bellemore is patching a hole in the Canes defense left by Faulk, it’s difficult to replace a 21-year-old who averages 23:23 of ice time each night. Head coach Kirk Muller expects a simple game from Bellemore.

“He’s got good size. He should be excited. Not looking for him to do anything extraordinary, just a good, simple game,” Muller said. “Move the puck, use his body and play a good, physical game.”

Bellemore, sitting between Jay Harrison and Ellis in the locker room, was indeed excited.

“For the last five years, I’ve been dreaming,” he said. “I hear stories of the guys when they come down, they’ll talk about how it is up here, and it’s really exciting.”

In another debut, Ruutu will play in his first game of the season after missing the team’s initial 29 games after undergoing hip surgery in mid-December. He will be slotted on the fourth line at the outset, and Tim Wallace and Kevin Westgarth are expected to be the healthy scratches.

In net, Ellis will get his third straight start. Though the team has collected just a point in the last two games, Ellis has been strong, making 75 saves on 79 shots (.949 save percentage).

This will be the third of three meetings between Carolina and New Jersey this season, as the two become division rivals beginning in the 2013-14 campaign. Having won the two prior meetings coming into tonight, Carolina could sweep the season series for the first time since moving to North Carolina. Since the 2004-05 work stoppage, the Canes have won just two season series, once in 2005-06 (2-1-1) and most recently in 2008-09 (3-1-0).

After tonight’s game, the Canes will have a rather odd four-day break before their next match-up, a meaningful divisional tilt on Tuesday against Winnipeg.

“We look to push them right to this game tonight, and then give them a chance to recover and regroup, and that’s what will do over the next couple of days,” Muller said. “After that, it’s the playoff stretch run. It’s the first time we’ve said to them this morning about hey, let’s go all out and then get a few days to rest and recover.”



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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
K. Versteeg 63 11 22 -6 33
E. Staal 63 10 23 -3 33
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81