Teamwork. That is what the Carolina Hurricanes must remember to start the season in North America.
After a successful NHL Premiere in Helsinki, Finland, the Carolina Hurricanes will start their North American part of the NHL season tonight in Ottawa, Ontario. The two games against the Minnesota Wild produced two wins for the young 'Canes team, who hope to return to the playoffs after missing last year's postseason due to a horrific start to the 2009-10 campaign. However, sweeping the Wild in Finland is nothing to sit on and celebrate over and the Hurricanes still have some work to do before thinking about the playoffs again.
Sticking together is what got them all through the exhibition game between the Hurricanes and SKA St. Petersberg in one piece, and hopefully for the 'Canes that test of adversity before the season will lead to a much better group on and off the ice despite the team being one of the youngest (and some say inexperienced) teams in the NHL right now.
Obviously, the greatest players for the 'Canes will have to be just that, and Cam Ward has been through the first two games. Eric Staal, however, has no points to start the season, and if he is to be an effective NHL captain, he must start producing at a point-per-game pace quickly in order for the Hurricanes to survive this season and move on to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
As for the rest of the 'Canes' young bunch, they will also have to contribute game in and game out on the score sheet as well as in the minds of the coaches and analysts. However, with Eric Staal being the only former 100-point producer on the team, it will take a collective effort from these guys to keep up a consistent work ethic on and off the ice. With very little consistency from some of the players as of yet, the youngest players will certainly have to pick up the slack on the off-nights production-wise for their veteran teammates.
The Hurricanes must also remember who they are and stick to their identity, as they are not one of the larger teams in size right now. They are also not physically intimidating in their playing style and will most likely have to send a message on the scoreboard instead of bruising their opponents in order to win games.
Ultimately, how the Hurricanes play with and without the puck might determine what happens after this season; if they are to go back to the playoffs or go home to yet another long, disappointing summer.