Previewing the East: Carolina Hurricanes
NOTE: Over the next several weeks, BlueJackets.com will take an extensive, in-depth look at the Jackets' new opponents in the Eastern Conference. Be on the lookout for photo galleries, analysis, video highlights and more!
Head Coach: Kirk Muller
Captain: Eric Staal
LAST YEAR: 19-25-4 (42 points); finished 13th in the Eastern Conference
VS. CBJ ('13-14): 12/23, 1/10, 1/27, 3/18, 3/29
OUTLOOK: The Hurricanes took this offseason as a chance to usher in a “new storm” era, as they called it, complete with new uniforms and new faces. The Hurricanes added Elias Lindholm at the NHL Draft with the No. 5 overall pick and he could secure a roster spot this season. They also signed defenseman Mike Komisarek and goaltender Anton Khudobin during free agency, bringing much-needed grit to the blue line and a solid backup goaltender for Cam Ward. However, their 2013-14 schedule will be no easy task. The Hurricanes will play 20 back-to-back sets, as well as 16 games in 31 days in March (including two games against the Blue Jackets) and will wrap up the season with 15 of their last 24 games on the road. This upcoming season is also head coach Kirk Muller’s first full season behind the bench for the Hurricanes. The key factor for the team will be staying healthy—a factor that could make or break their entire season in the new Metropolitan Division.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Skinner hasn’t been the same player since he suffered multiple concussions over the past two seasons. His last healthy season was the year he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie, posting 63 points (31 goals and 32 assists) in the 2010-11 season. He is looking to bounce back from his injuries and prove himself as a top-six forward for the Hurricanes with more consistent scoring and two-way play. Skinner is known for his figure skating background--skills that are evident on pretty goals like the one below.
Ward said he felt “helpless” watching his team slowly slip down the Eastern Conference standings in 2012-13. This season, he will return fully healthy and be counted on to carry the ‘Canes. His performance in 2013-14 will depend on staying healthy and the help he’ll receive from his new backup Khudobin. Ward is a solid netminder who is used to putting the team on his back--much like what he did for the Hurricanes when they won the Stanley Cup in 2006 and earned himself the Conn Smythe Trophy. He comes up big in key moments, like this one here.