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Tracking the Storm

Gameday: A Night of Debuts

Thursday, 03.21.2013 / 12:30 PM / 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 MTL 61 40 16 5 167 135 85
2 NYI 63 41 20 2 202 174 84
3 NYR 60 38 16 6 190 148 82
4 TBL 63 38 19 6 207 167 82
5 DET 60 34 15 11 176 156 79
6 PIT 61 35 17 9 176 152 79
7 WSH 63 33 20 10 184 159 76
8 BOS 61 30 22 9 161 160 69
9 FLA 61 26 22 13 145 172 65
10 PHI 62 26 25 11 164 181 63
11 OTT 59 26 23 10 167 161 62
12 NJD 62 25 27 10 139 164 60
13 CBJ 60 26 30 4 157 189 56
14 TOR 61 25 31 5 170 185 55
15 CAR 60 23 30 7 137 159 53
16 BUF 62 19 38 5 120 207 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 60 11 28 -14 39
E. Staal 55 18 18 -9 36
E. Lindholm 59 11 16 -15 27
J. Skinner 55 16 9 -15 25
R. Nash 57 7 15 -8 22
N. Gerbe 56 7 14 -11 21
V. Rask 58 8 11 -16 19
J. McClement 60 4 12 1 16
J. Staal 24 4 11 -1 15
A. Semin 36 2 12 -8 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 16 19 4 .914 2.35
A. Khudobin 7 11 3 .906 2.60