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A slow start doomed the Carolina Hurricanes last season. Their performance in the 2010-11 opener was much more encouraging.
The Hurricanes look to sweep back-to-back games against Minnesota in Helsinki, Finland, on Friday, with the Wild also trying to avoid another poor start.
Carolina opened last season 2-12-4, scoring two or fewer goals in 14 of those 18 games. The Hurricanes would finish the season strong, but still missed the playoffs after finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference.
They came out aggressively in the NHL's opening game Thursday in Helsinki, defeating Minnesota 4-3. Brandon Sutter scored two goals, including one to cap a three-goal second period for Carolina.
"We were nervous during the first 10 minutes," said Jussi Jokinen, who had a goal and an assist. "Then we got bigger intensity and energy and played a good second period. They have two good units offensively, but their weakness is the defense, and we used that, putting pressure on their defensemen."
While one key this season for the Hurricanes will be a more consistent contribution from captain Eric Staal, Jokinen, a Finland native, got off to a good start as he seeks an encore for his career-best 65-point season. He thrived Thursday on a line with Tuomo Ruutu and 18-year-old Jeff Skinner, Carolina's first-round draft pick.
"It was good because (Sutter and Jokinen) get that confidence and grab some of that early," coach Paul Maurice told the Hurricanes' official website. "Guys like Staal can go three or four games without scoring and don't start questioning themselves, but players that had big years come back and feel like they need to do something early to get that confidence."
Like the Hurricanes, the Wild are seeking a better start than last season, when they dropped their opener and six of their first seven. They got on the board first when Guillaume Latendresse scored 3:33 into the game, but couldn't hold the lead.
The Wild, who finished 13th in the Western Conference in 2009-10, haven't opened a season with consecutive losses since their expansion season of 2000-01, when they began 0-4 with one tie.
"Not really the start we wanted but we've just go to build on it and get ready for (Friday)," said defenseman Brent Burns, who scored a late power-play goal. "(We need to) tighten up in the d-zone."
Burns is hoping for a more productive season than 2009-10, when he was limited to 47 games because of a hip injury and a concussion. Now healthy, he could help Niklas Backstrom, who had 27 saves Thursday, bounce back from his own disappointing year.
Backstrom was 26-23-8 with a career-high 2.72 goals-against average last season. He's looking to recapture his form from 2008-09, when he won 37 games and had a 2.33 GAA.