What’s happening in Raleigh?
Plenty – as g.m. Jim Rutherford crafts what he hopes will be a playoff lineup.
Our man in Carolina, Joel Cohen, takes a look at the story lines for the Hurricanes heading into the season.
Carolina enters this new season with more story lines than an episode of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.
1. CAM WARD
After two seasons shortened with injuries, Ward needs a break-through year. Trite as it sounds, this is a team that heavily depends on Cam. As Ward goes, the team goes – which leads to the next story line of who will back him up?
2. ANTON KHUDOBIN
When Ward has been injured, the team rarely has had a strong goalie to fill the void.
Will the acquisition of Khudobin, former Bruins back-up, be the answer?
The Canes need the best veteran goalie available to take the pressure off Ward.
3. JONI PITKANEN
Shocking news for the team is that Pitkanen has yet to recover from last year’s shattered heel injury and is out for the 2013-14 season. G.m. Jim Rutherford filled the hole with veteran Ron Hainsey. That’s an excellent move.
4. MIKE KOMISAREK
Everyone took notice of this strong 6-4, 235 pound defenseman for his tough play while with the Canadiens. As a Leaf, his stock took a dive.
Rutherford is hoping a clean slate will resurrect Komisarek’s career.
Will Komisarek, now re-united with Coach Kirk Muller, regain his once held all-star status?
5. ERIC STAAL
All eyes will be on Captain Eric to see what game-playing shape his knee is in.
Staal spent the Summer recovering from a right medial collateral ligament sprain while playing for Team Canada in the IIHF World Championships. He took a knee-to-knee hit from Sweden’s Alex Edler.
6. JORDAN STAAL
Admitting disappointment with his play last season and with high expectations and a 10-year, $60 million contract, will Jordan show Canes fans the same superior play he displayed for years while in Pittsburgh?
7. JEFF SKINNER
Skinner suffered a series of concussions for the past two years.
With each additional hit, the question is how much more can this youngster take?
With a new six-year, $34 million contract, hopes are high that Jeff -- with a changed style of play -- can become the Canes’ highlight reel once again.
8. ELIAS LINDHOLM
Will this much-heralded Swedish first round pick be ready for the Big Show?
9. METROPOLITAN DIVISION
In a tough new division where only the top three teams make the playoffs, how will the Hurricanes match-up against the high budget teams stockpiled with stars, physical defensemen and four lines of offensive power?
10. G.M. JIM RUTHERFORD
How strong is the bench if one of the top six forwards goes down with an injury?
Will Jim add from the crop of free agents available?
One thing is certain: Rutherford knows how critically important it is for this team to get back into the playoffs and also knows how much tougher it’s going to be with the new alignment.