Canes slow out of the gate

Carolina falling behind early

Staff WriterDecember 8, 2010 

— Lately, the Carolina Hurricanes have been starting slow and giving up the first goal.

So it's no surprise they've won just two of their past six games.

"It's tough," Canes center Brandon Sutter said. "We've had a few games now where we've had slow first periods, first 10 minutes. For whatever reason, it takes us a few shifts to get going."

Confidence can go a long way, and the Canes could use a little more of it, Carolina coach Paul Maurice said.

"Some of it is emotion," he said. "I think we're still making sure we have enough jump in our legs, that we're ready to go right from the start. Some of the games it hasn't been there. And when you've been through a stretch of some overtime losses, a couple of wins, a couple of losses, there's not as high of confidence than when you get on a bit of a run. Then, you're really pushing your game early."

Consider that in their two wins, the Canes were the first to get on the board.

"It's why the first goal in games is so important," Canes forward Jussi Jokinen said. "If you can get that first goal, you can get confidence. It's so much easier to play."

Jokinen said getting that first goal often forces the opponent to "open up a little bit," which can lead to more scoring chances.

"It's tough if you're down a couple of goals," Canes winger Tuomo Ruutu said. "It's tough to fight back. A lot of times you'll come back in the second or third period."

Added Ruutu, "Once you give up the lead, it shouldn't be the end of the world."

But Maurice has brought up the slow starts with the team.

"Oh, we talk about it," Maurice said. "We're not going out there with the idea of let's sit back and see what [our opponent is going to] do. That's not the plan. But it takes some confidence to get out there and really establish our game."

Maurice said the team has to establish its forecheck and use its speed.

"So much of our game has always been based around that," he said.

Sutter said Maurice has stressed getting a hit, a shot off, a puck at the net early.

"You just have to get a hit in there, kind of get your mind in the game," Sutter said.

That starts with the very first shift, and it may mean more tweaking on the first line on a game-to-game basis, matching up center Eric Staal with speedier or bulkier wingers, depending on the opponent.

"Some nights he needs a little bit more size, so you'll see [Erik] Cole and Ruutu," Maurice said. "Some nights he needs some quickness and some hands you'll see Jokinen and [Chad] LaRose."

Even in the Canes' 3-0 win over the Bruins on Nov. 26, Boston had the dangerous scoring chances early. But the Canes hung on and scored the first of three power-play goals in the final minute of the first period.

"Obviously different guys have different methods of getting ready for games," rookie defenseman Jamie McBain said. "We've got to make sure that every time we come to the rink for games that we have that energy level, because it's tough for us to battle from behind each game like that or have [goalie Cam Ward] have to stand on his head for the first 10 minutes before we get into it."

Staff Writer Chip Alexander contributed to this report.

javier.serna@newsobserver.com or 919-836-4953

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