Devils 2013 Schedule Preview: Carolina Hurricanes
With the lockout done and the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We kicked things off with a look at two Northeast division teams, but today we’ll move south for our preview of the Carolina Hurricanes.
There’s a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the Carolina Hurricanes.
Despite missing the postseason for the third straight season, and finishing last in the Southeast Division, the Hurricanes were one of the teams itching for the lockout to end. A draft-day trade for Jordan Staal gives the team a big weapon down the middle, and the addition of sniper Alex Semin could turn into one of the best bargain signings by general manager Jim Rutherford.
Kirk Muller took over after a 4-10-2 November swoon last season, and brought the Hurricanes back from dead. At one point, the team sat just five points out of the playoffs before losing four of their last five games.
Carolina had a ton of momentum carrying them before the lockout. Can they find it again and contend for a spot in the top eight?
New Jersey went 3-1-0 against Carolina last season, winning both home games. The Devils hold an all time-record of 61-42-2 with 12 ties against the Hurricanes. The 136 points gained against Carolina are sixth-best in franchise history, and are the second-most among intra-conference teams.
October 10, 2011: Devils – 4, Hurricanes – 2 @ Prudential Center
Zach Parise netted the first goal of this season series, giving New Jersey a lead in the first period. Alexei Ponikarovsky tied the game in the second period. But it was short lived, as Mark Fayne restored the Devils lead. The see-saw battle continued, as Chad LaRose tied the game 2-2, ending two periods of play with a tied score. New Jersey would pull away in the third period, with Ilya Kovalchuk scoring the game-winning goal and Parise adding an extra-net tally for good measure.
Johan Hedberg picked up the win, stopping 24 of 26 shots. Cam Ward made 22 saves in the loss.
November 8, 2011: Devils – 3, Hurricanes – 2 @ Prudential Center
The second meeting between the two teams followed the same script as the first game. Brandon Sutter kicked off the scoring, netting a shorthanded tally in the first period. New Jersey responded with goals from Dainius Zubrus (second period) and Petr Sykora to take a 2-1 lead early in the third period. Joni Pitkanen answered back, tying the game at 2-2 with over 13 minutes left in the final frame. Adam Henrique would net the winner, beating Ward at the 16:41 mark.
Martin Brodeur, making his first start against Carolina, stopped 25 shots in the win. Ward was a tough luck loser with 33 saves.
December 26, 2011: Hurricanes – 4, Devils – 2 @ PNC Arena
Carolina flipped the script on New Jersey in the third game, holding them to just two scores in their first win of the season series. Sutter once again scored a shorthanded goal to open the game. Tuomo Ruutu and Anthony Stewart stretched the lead to 3-0 with second period goals. David Clarkson and Henrique scored in the third period, cutting the lead to 3-2. But New Jersey couldn’t find the tying tally, and Ward buried the puck into an open net for the insurance goal.
Hedberg played well, stopping 30 of 33 shots in the loss. Along with the goal, Ward made 23 saves in the win.
March 31, 2012: Devils – 5, Hurricanes – 0 @ PNC Arena
New Jersey saved their best performance for last, blanking Carolina to close out the season series. The Devils scored goals in each period, with five different players finding the back of the net. Kovalchuk led all scorers with three points, scoring a goal and adding two assists. Elias finished with two assists. Brodeur stopped 22 shots for the shutout. Brian Boucher made 26 saves on 31 shots.
This Season’s Matchup
The Hurricanes fell into the perfect situation this summer, when Staal decided his time with Pittsburgh was coming to an end. The center had always been a secondary option on a loaded Penguins roster, and Carolina could provide the unique opportunity for him to play with his brother. They gave up a lot to unite the brothers. Sutter, just 22 years old and in his fourth NHL season, recorded 32 points while averaging the highest time-on-ice total in his career.
The signing of Semin was one of the boldest moves of the offseason. The talented forward is a former 40-goal scorer, and yet sat on the market longer than most. He can be inconsistent, and disappeared for stretches in Washington. But if he can regain his scoring touch and put together a complete season, it will be one of the best bargain signings in recent memory.
Jeff Skinner highlights the talented offense for the Canes. His point totals dipped last season, but he missed significant time with a concussion. Eric Staal led the team with 70 points, and the possibility of playing on the same line with his brother could increase his production.
On the blueline, Rutherford continued to add depth to an already solid group. Marc-Andre Gragnani and Joe Corvo join a defense headlined by second-year pro Justin Faulk. The rookie impressed with 22 points.
Ward is one of the best goalies in the game, and last year should be seen as an aberration. With plenty of injuries throughout the season, the quality in front of him wasn’t nearly what the team expected. With a healthy roster and plenty of offensive support, expect him to return to his normal numbers.
The Devils and Canes face off three teams this season. They open the season series on February 12 in New Jersey. New Jersey travels to PNC Arena twice in March to finish off the season series.
Kovalchuk led all Devils skaters with six points (2g, 4a) against the Hurricanes. The Devils right-wing, who once played in the Southeast Division with the Atlanta Thrashers, has 70 points (34g, 36a) in 56 games against Carolina in his career.
Anton Volchenkov recorded three assists against Carolina, which contributed to around 27 percent of his point total last season. Those numbers also accounted for around 33 percent of his assist total (9) last year.
Ponikarovsky, traded to the Devils last season, recorded two points (1g, 1a) against New Jersey. He failed to record a point against Carolina in the season series finale.