By Michael Smith
Raleigh, NC October 5, 2013 – It’s easy to look back at Friday night – all of the pageantry and emotion of Opening Night – and dwell on the fact that the Carolina Hurricanes were 16.4 seconds away from two points.
But, it was game one of 82. The Canes emerged with an ever-important point, and can build on a host of positives. Now, they look toward their Sunday evening match-up with their new Metropolitan Division foe, the Philadelphia Flyers.
“We’ve got to play 60 minutes or 60 minutes plus. We can’t let our guard down or let up. It was a good example last night,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “It’s okay. It’s a little learning curve. We gave up a point, which we’re not happy about, but for playing our first game, the jitters at home and playing a good team, I thought there were a lot more positives than negatives.”
Cam Ward was a positive, as he stopped 35 of 38 shots, continuing his strong play from the team’s final two preseason games in which he stopped 43 of 44 combined shots.
The Canes’ special teams succeeded at both ends of the ice. The man advantage scored once in three tries, and the penalty kill disposed all three of Detroit’s power play opportunities.
Muller added that the Hurricanes’ even-strength game was also up to the challenge of facing a deep and experienced Detroit squad.
“We looked at all the positives last night to build on,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “Five-on-five, you take away the four-on-four and six-on-five, and we gave up one goal. So I thought in five-on-five hockey, we competed hard and played well. Lots of positive stuff to keep building on.”
“I think we gave up like five scoring chances in the first two periods,” forward Jiri Tlusty said. “That’s what we want. That’s the identity of our team and what we’re trying to improve.”
The team’s second line of Jordan Staal, Patrick Dwyer and Nathan Gerbe carried their preseason chemistry into last night’s regular-season premiere. The trio combined for eight shots (including a team-high five from Gerbe), three blocked shots and two takeaways, all while being matched up against Pavel Datsyuk’s top line.
“They play the game the right way, and they do it against top players,” Muller said. “They played a hard forechecking game. They came back hard, and they defended well. They just played a really smart game, and they just got their opportunities by doing it. They’ve been really consistent since they’ve been together.”
Muller called last night’s game Staal’s best as a Hurricane.
“That’s the type of player that we’re going to see this year,” he said.
Muller said final lineup decisions for Sunday’s game would be made that morning. There were no additions, subtractions or changes to the lines at practice on Saturday.
“I thought the pairings were good last night,” Muller said. “We’ll watch Philly tonight and see what kind of lineup they have. We’ll make some decisions in the morning based on what we feel we want to do here, what’s best for us and what kind of lineup we’re matching up with.”
Sunday’s game is a 5 p.m. faceoff, a quick turnaround for the Flyers who are in Montreal tonight.
“We have to come ready to play tomorrow night and just jump on them,” Tlusty said. “It’s hard to play back-to-backs at the start of the season, so we have to take advantage of that and play as hard as we can.”
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