Samsonov's goal is to be ready

Staff writerAugust 27, 2010 

— Sergei Samsonov grabbed the puck and came dancing out of the corner, quickly weaving his way through defenders and beating goaltender Cam Ward with a short, nifty backhander.

Moments later, Samsonov took a pass from Jamie McBain in the slot and ripped a shot past Ward. Then, he did it again.

Samsonov laughed later when asked about the goals, which came during a Carolina Hurricanes' informal workout this week at the RecZone.

"It's August," he said.

In other words, no big deal. No one wants to be "Mr. August." It's not until October, when the hockey season begins, that goals are meaningful.

Then again, there was some uncertainty if Samsonov would be in Raleigh, at the RecZone, this August. Some scuttlebutt surfaced soon after last season that the veteran winger, who has one year left on a contract that will pay him $2.8 million, might be bought out as the Hurricanes looked to transition to a younger team.

Samsonov, who turns 32 in October, said he tried to ignore such speculation.

"I try to stay away from that," he said. "There are always rumors, especially the way our season turned out last year. Toward the end of the season, when I saw guys being traded, you get to feeling the team might be going in a different direction. We have gotten a lot younger.

"You try not to pay attention to that to a degree. You can't sit around thinking about it. I wasn't during the summer."

Samsonov said he never felt the need to call general manager Jim Rutherford and check up on things or get a status report.

"I figured if there was going to be a phone call, it was going to be from him," he said, smiling.

Samsonov's phone never rang. After some vacation time in Michigan and a trip to Russia, he was back in Raleigh and ready when the informal practices began this past week.

Heading into his 13th NHL season, and fourth with the Canes, Samsonov isn't sure where he will fit in the lineup. Maybe among the top nine forwards and maybe not. He did see some fourth-line time last season.

"I don't know, because I've been through times where you think you're going to be playing one way and then have a different role," he said. "For me, it's just getting ready for a season and trying not to think about stuff like that.

"We're going to have a lot of different faces, and there could be a lot of different combinations in the beginning. Personally, it really doesn't matter where I'm going to play. If I'm ready to go, it's not going to matter where I fit in. I'm sure I'll find a place."

Samsonov finished with 14 goals and 15 assists last season, scoring just once in the Canes' first 14 games and once in the last 20 games. He missed 10 games and closed minus-15 in the plus/minus ratings.

On March 11, against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Samsonov had a season-low 6:55 in ice time. Nine days later, he had a little more than seven minutes against the Pens.

But Samsonov has been working hard at the RecZone, pushing himself, sweating, preparing.

"For me, it's coming into camp in the best shape possible and being ready," he said.

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8945

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