After dropping their first game of the 2012-2013 regular season, a 5-1 decision to the Florida Panthers on Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes took Sunday off, and got back to work at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. on Monday.
The team’s 0-6 performance on the power play was a notable area that required some focus while getting back to basics and making a few adjustments in line combinations.
“Not in a panic way or anything, we knew that we had to experiment a little bit,” Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller said after the on-ice session.
“Once this gets rolling, you’re not going to see a lot of changes, the way it is right now. Fortunately, (these are) the games that you gotta’ tweak things until we feel we’re comfortable, we’ll make the necessary changes to make everything a little bit better.”
Falling behind quickly and trailing Florida 4-0 after the first period, the Hurricanes didn’t get the opportunity to ease into the game, so Muller had to be cautious in how he reacted to the situation.
“It wasn’t the start that we wanted, and I didn’t want to play around first game,” Muller continued.
“If it was a tighter game, I think you know that I’m willing to make changes and move guys up and down the ladder. Because of the circumstances, I just thought I wanted to stay consistent and just see how the lines ran.”
Rather than tinkering too much, Muller preferred to keep linemates together for the most part, but did make some jersey color changes during practice as forward Zac Dalpe was sick and did not practice.
He would rather see his lines work harder to develop more consistency, rather than reacting and making wholesale changes constantly.
The focus for him on Monday was for his players to become more disciplined in areas that are correctable.
“Discipline is taking bad penalties in the wrong places at the wrong time and long shifts,” Muller said.
“I can handle not being perfect on our execution and systems, but I thought we were okay on it as the game went on. We gotta’ have shorter shifts, discipline’s gotta’ be better – those areas we can correct and can control. We get that out of our game, I think we’ll be okay.”
Knowing who you’re up against
When facing off against the Tampa Bay Lighting on Tuesday, winners of three of the two teams’ last four meetings at PNC Arena, Muller knows all too well the challenge that that the Hurricanes have in front of them.
“We know what we’re ready for,” Muller said with a smile.
“We know their team. We know their personnel. You’ll see some matchups tomorrow night.”
As this short season has already shown the need for quick adjustments, knowing the opposition’s tendencies is crucial to not providing any advantage to the other side, like Carolina did against the Panthers.
“We really gave them their goals,” Muller said.
“I was pretty happy, to be honest with you, with our effort and execution on certain things. If anything, we just beat ourselves early on.”
Confidence in net
Even though Muller pulled starting goaltender Cam Ward against Florida, there was no hesitation when he was asked who would start against the Lightning.
“Cam’s in,” Muller said. Cam’s in as the starter.”
Even in getting beat on some very accurately placed shots against Florida, Muller didn’t hang that entirely on Ward.
“It’s the toughest from what it appears so far, on the goaltenders more than anybody,” he said.
“What is important is that he bounces back mentally, he rolls up the sleeves, gets ready, and works through this. I’m sure from his past, opening game (coming up) here, he’ll bounce back and have a good performance.”
As he does with all of his players, Muller talked with Ward after the game on Saturday and relayed his confidence in him to be ready for every game.
“I said, ‘Forget about it - it’s done and focus on the opener. You’re an elite goaltender, you know you had a tough game. Get ready to play tomorrow.’ You don’t get as exposed when you’re a player, as you do being a goalie. He knows it. He’s the first to say, ‘hey, I wasn’t good’, and that’s okay. The key is how you respond from it. I’m sure he’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
In Cam’s words
When describing what happened against the Panthers, Ward pointed that he wasn’t as aggressive on some shots as he normally would be.
“For me, the thing is having the crowd in front of the net,” Ward said.
“Putting in the trust in your teammates to do the right thing. With me playing deep, that might be because I’m anticipating a pass where I just need to focus on the shot and do my job.”
Throughout the lockout, Ward had worked out with only a handful of players, developing his lateral movement and getting lots of shots put on him, but he wasn’t able to get many reps with heavy traffic in front of him.
Thus, he didn’t get the opportunity to work on his timing as much as he would have preferred, so now he must develop it quickly as each game comes.
“There’s going to be times when it goes up to the high slot and you gotta’ fight through traffic, that’s the area where you feel a little bit uncomfortable and deep in your net,” Ward continued.
“I know I play well when I’m aggressive. You look at that Campbell shot - he did put an excellent shot on me on the second goal - but typically I’d be a little more aggressive on that.”
“I’ve just gotta’ learn from it.”
As the Hurricanes put another practice behind them, their learning curve will progressively steepen with each passing game starting on Tuesday in its standing room only home opener against Tampa Bay.