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No one on the Hurricanes is coming right out and saying it, but the beginning of this hockey season sure brings back some good memories.
With a record of 6-1-3 and a total of 15 points from their first 10 games, this year’s squad has now matched the 2005-06 championship team for the best start in Hurricanes history. That team went 7-2-1 through its first 10 contests.
Besides a few blips in the form of a 2-0 loss at Washington, their only loss in regulation, and a couple of overtime defeats here and there, this Hurricanes team has looked very good in making earning some big victories over Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Buffalo, to name a few. In another parallel to two years ago, the Hurricanes were the first team to defeat the Senators, who stormed out of the gate in similar fashion that season.
While encouraged by the team’s fast start, most in the ‘Canes locker room are choosing to remain focused on the task at hand rather than lose themselves in feelings of nostalgia.
”It is hard to draw a comparison from year to year, although I know it will be done,” said Coach Peter Laviolette. “A good start doesn’t necessarily mean a good ending and vice-versa.”
“It’s nice to get off to a good start,” said defenseman Mike Commodore. “It’s not all going to be great, I’m sure there’s going to be some stretches where we don’t play well and we lose some games that maybe we shouldn’t or whatever. It’s nice to get the confidence and roll because when those little valleys do happen, it makes it easier to get out of it.”
The Hurricanes are a confident group right now, and it’s showing on the ice. Laviolette first saw that confidence developing in training camp and has watched it blossom through the team’s first 10 games.
”You can gain a lot of confidence from training camp, but you can’t win the Stanley Cup,” said Coach Peter Laviolette. “The only thing you can do is get confident about yourself as a team and winning hockey games, and you can put yourself off on the right foot. Training camp did that for us, and it allowed us to come in to the year feeling good about our game and the way we were playing.”
As Laviolette pointed out, the main similarity between this year’s team and that of two years ago is the roster, particularly with the re-acquisition of Matt Cullen. Jeff Hamilton’s contributions and the emergence of Chad LaRose as a scoring threat have actually served to increase the team’s depth at forward, arguably the strongest facet of the cup-winning team.
”I think the biggest thing is that we’re back to three and sometimes four lines that are threats, while last year I think that was missing a little bit,” said Commodore. “We didn’t have that threat from the third line that we do now. I guess we’re more of a complete team.”
Commodore doesn’t like using the term “fourth line,” and with good reason. With a completely healthy roster, Hamilton and LaRose would likely be playing there. As both those players have shown this season, they’re every bit as capable of filling a scoring role on the top lines.
”That term doesn’t really do those guys justice, but I guess you’ve got to call them something,” said Commodore.
Next on the agenda is the 4-2-2 Montreal Canadiens, as the Hurricanes will try to earn a point in the standings for the eighth consecutive game. It will already be the third of four meeting of the season between the two teams, with the Hurricanes posting a 1-0-1 record in those contests.
While already very familiar with Montreal at this early stage in the season, Laviolette doesn’t see that as being particularly beneficial to either club.
“I don’t think it’s an advantage or a disadvantage for anybody,” he said. “They’ve seen us, we’ve seen them, there’s nothing to hide anymore. You can go to tape and pick out whatever you want. There’s no systems that you can hide from each other.”
Erik Cole, Andrew Ladd and Scott Walker will still be out, although Cole and Ladd did skate before Thursday's practice. Laviolette said he would not rule out a Saturday return for Cole at the New York Islanders, while Ladd could still a bit farther away. Walker is still out indefinitely with his torso injury.
“We’re in the middle of three in four and six in nine, and it’s just best to monitor these things as opposed to taking them out there and grinding them down for another 35 minutes," he said.