Opening night. Complete with rally towels, a red carpet welcome for fans and a brand new team. Oh, sure the Carolina Hurricanes have a lot of the same names and faces, and most of them are still in familiar places. But to think this team won’t look, act and feel different is to have little to no respect for the fact that Rod Brind’Amour is the head coach. If there was ever a person to impart a change in culture and attitude, it’s the best player in the Hurricanes‘ history.
Not because Rod was a great player, one who for some reason does not get his due across the NHL landscape. Rarely do star players make great — let alone good — head coaches. But Brind’Amour wasn’t your garden variety star. Clearly, he was a skilled player. You don’t score 452 goals and compile 1,184 points without having raw hockey talent. But Rod’s best skill was his work ethic. Hard work was his mantra. The production he enjoyed was borne of preparation and perspiration.
For a young team, there can be no better example. No better person from whom to take direction. With that said, it all begins tonight against the Islanders. Carolina’s 5-0-1 preseason, while stellar, is now a distant memory. From tonight forward, it all goes in the ledger in ink.
* The Hurricanes opening night roster includes FIVE rookies, FOUR veteran players making their Hurricanes debuts, a goalie trying to regain footing on a once-promising career and a dynamic offensive talent making the transition to playing center in the NHL.
* Carolina will line up as follows:
Mrazek (backed up by McElhinney)
* Phil DiGiuseppe, Haydn Fleury are healthy scratches. I feel for Phil because he was absolutely one of Carolina’s best players in the preseason and more consistently effective than many of the players in tonight’s lineup. But there was no way on this planet that Andrei Svechnikov wasn’t going to play in front of a home crowd on opening night, and Lucas Wallmark is the only other natural center on the team.
* For the first time in many years, the Canes will have a physical element on every single line. Michael Ferland will hit anything that breathes. Warren Foegele, Brock McGinn and Jordan Martinook are all physical players and all can contribute on the score sheet.
* Foegele, Wallmark, Svechnikov, Martin Necas and Valentin Zykov are all rookies. Ferland, Martinook, Dougie Hamilton and Calvin de Haan are solid vets who will debut in a Canes sweater tonight. In all, only NINE players in tonight’s opening line up were on the roster at the start of last season.
Carolina has not had great success on opening night
The Hurricanes are 5-10-3 with two ties (prior to Shootout era) in 20 previous season openers.
The Hurricanes are 5-11-2 with two ties in home opening games since moving from Hartford.
Around the league:
The Calgary HurriFlames lost their opener in Vancouver 5-2. Bill Peters’ team out shot the Canucks 35-22, won the face off circle by a 34-25 count and went 0-for-7 on the power play. All of that sounds far too familiar, I know. Elias Lindholm played 20:21, much of it on the top line with John Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Derek Ryan won 8 of 9 face offs and played 14:57 in his Flames debut. Noah Hanifin had an assist in 19:36 TOI.
Jeff Skinner and his new team, the Buffalo Sabres, start their season at home against the Bruins. Boston should be a little salty coming off a 7-0 crushing loss in Washington.
The Blue Jackets visit Detroit tonight in the season opener for both teams. This is significant because…
Carolina’s next five games:
Friday, October 5 at Columbus, 7 p.m.
Sunday, October 7 vs NY Rangers, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, October 9 vs Vancouver, 5 p.m.
Saturday, October 13 at Minnesota, 6 p.m.
Sunday, October 14 at Winnipeg, 7 p.m.