Carolina Hurricanes winger Chad LaRose says he keeps the newspaper article in the top drawer of his dresser, easily accessible, easily seen.
It irks him. It also motivates him.
The headline: "Canes Fade in Finish." It's the story about Carolina's 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, on April 9 at the RBC Center. It came in the final game of the 2010-11 regular season, keeping the Hurricanes out of the Stanley Cup playoffs for a second straight year.
"Let's say I've got some unfinished business," LaRose said Monday, 135 days after the loss. "It's like it's been forever. It's been way too long.
"What you shoot for is short summers. When it gets long like this you're itching and chomping at the bit to get back and get going."
With that in mind, LaRose is heading up the players' informal workouts at the newly named Raleigh Center Ice. On Monday, at the first on-ice session, he did much of the organizing and it was his voice that often was heard.
"You need to be a little bit of a voice, so there's a little direction out there," LaRose said. "Day one, here we go."
For years, the informal workouts were overseen by Rod Brind'Amour, the former team captain and workout fiend, and it was known as "Camp Brindy." But Brind'Amour now is a member of the Canes' coaching staff and veterans such as Erik Cole have left, so it might be "Camp Rosey" for now.
There wasn't a huge turnout Monday. Joining LaRose were skaters Patrick Dwyer, Jamie McBain, Jiri Tlusty, Zac Dalpe, Justin Faulk and Jon Matsumoto.
"If it's the same with the other guys as it was for me, you went home with a sour taste in your mouth and you wanted to get back as soon as possible," Dwyer said.
But it was important, LaRose said, that goaltenders Cam Ward and Brian Boucher also be there. So much this season could rest with Ward, an NHL All-Star last season, and Boucher, a veteran backup signed as a free agent.
Ward first joined LaRose and the others early Monday at the Athletic Performance Center for conditioning work, then headed to Raleigh Center Ice to put on the pads and face some shots.
"It was important to show up, to be there," Ward said. "This year there's going to be some new guys and you want to make sure you make them feel welcome and part of the team. It's important that guys like Rosey and myself, with quite a few years, be here to help lead the way."
Ward, 27, played an NHL-high 74 games last season and was third in the league in wins with 37. But, like his teammates, he badly wanted a 38th win to end the regular season and was left deflated by the loss to the Lightning.
"It was definitely too long of a summer," he said. "But if anything, you have to take advantage of the rest and gear up for a long season."
Ward and Boucher, seated next to each other in the locker room, had some time to chat after Monday's workout. There was hockey talk and some good-natured ribbing - Ward is a New York Yankees fan and Boucher a diehard Boston Red Sox fan.
"I think it's great," Ward said "I've heard nothing but great things about Brian Boucher and I've obviously seen him play quite a bit. I think he's a great goaltender and I think he'll be a big help to our team."
The Canes will have other new faces, as well: defenseman Tomas Kaberle, and forwards Anthony Stewart, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Tim Brent. All signed free-agent contracts after the season.
The Canes' preseason training camp will begin Sept. 16, with physicals. The first practice will be the next day at the RBC Center.
"We've got high expectations here," Ward said. "By no means do we want to be seated at home watching the playoffs again."
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