RALEIGH — It's almost as if Ryan Carter and Troy Bodie never completely left the NHL's Western Conference.
Since the two forwards joined the Carolina Hurricanes last month from the Anaheim Ducks, the Canes have played the Dallas Stars and the Colorado Avalanche and twice faced the Nashville Predators. This week, it's the Stars again and then the St. Louis Blues, both on the road.
The Canes' next home game? It's Dec. 18, against the Ducks.
"With these teams, I already know the scouting report," Bodie said, smiling.
But the Canes also have tapped into what Carter and Bodie can share about the Western teams.
"Especially the defense," coach Paul Maurice said. "That's where when you see a guy more, when you see a defenseman night after night, you can fully appreciate where their strengths and weaknesses are. Those two guys do help with that, yes."
But that's not why the Canes picked up Carter and Bodie. They have size. They can bang. They're a good fit on the fourth line.
The Hurricanes traded for Carter on Nov. 23, acquiring a player who was a part of the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup run. Bodie, 25, was claimed off waivers from the Ducks on Nov. 16.
Carter, 27, lived in the Newport Beach, Calif., area while with the Ducks and had the tan to prove it. For him, coming to Raleigh was more than the normal NHL trade.
"Changing teams was kind of like changing lifestyles," he said. "You learn new roads, new cities, new people, new places and obviously the most important thing: the on-ice stuff."
Carter has learned and adapted well. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound center has done fourth-line hustling, killed penalties and helped the Canes improve what had been a woeful showing in the faceoff circle.
In Saturday's 5-2 road loss against the Nashville Predators, Carter won a faceoff in the Nashville zone and then crashed the net as the Canes scored their second goal when Jiri Tlusty had a clear shot on a rebound. Later in the game, Carter steamed up ice to help break up a two-on-one rush by the Preds, diving from behind to get a piece of the puck.
"Our penalty-killing has really improved since Carter has been here," Maurice said. "Better faceoffs, and it's also let us cut back some of [Eric] Staal's time on the penalty kill."
Bodie opened the Nashville game on the fourth line with Carter and Tlusty. But the 6-4, 213-pound forward also was used on the third line as Maurice made changes. Bodie finished with almost 11 minutes in ice time, his high in seven games with Carolina.
Bodie quickly won over Canes fans - and his new teammates - in his second game, against the Washington Capitals at the RBC Center. He dropped the gloves with the Caps' Matt Bradley, landed a few haymakers and left Bradley bloodied.
"That's part of my role, and I wanted to get it out there right away," Bodie said. "So I did that. At the same time, I kind of wanted to."
Maurice has noticed.
"Bodie likes the physical part of the game and wants to get in the hits," Maurice said. "They're just two competitive guys, and the fourth line has really changed the way it looks."
Carter and Bodie have changed the way they looked. They had mustaches when they joined the Canes - participating in the NHL November fund-raising effort - but have shaved them off.
Bodie was the last to do it, pulling out the razor Monday. Told the 'stache gave him the look of a Western gunslinger - Doc Holliday comes to mind - he laughed.
"I'd like to have that kind of swagger," he said, joking.
For now, Bodie's physicality and Carter's hustle will serve the Canes' needs.
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