Canes enter 2012 knowing where they stand

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 3, 2012 

The Canes' locker room once had updated Eastern Conference standings posted, with the teams' records and points. That was discontinued at some point this season, but coach Kirk Muller wants it back again -- a daily reminder of where the Canes stand and where they want to go.

"I think it's important that the guys read it and look at it and be aware of it," Muller said. "See it every day, see the movement that goes on. Reality is reality."

The reality for the Canes entering 2012 is that they're 13-21-6. With 32 points they're last in the East although tied in points with the New York Islanders (13-17-6), who have four games in hand going into tonight's game at the RBC Center.

"It's a big game for us at home," Canes captain Eric Staal said after today's morning skate. "It's a team we want to beat. We're coming off a loss at Tampa. We have to make sure we remember that feeling of a loss and kind of hold that inside and come out tonight aggressive and strong and con... and has been one of the Canes' better two-way forwards -- he's plus-3 over the last 19 games.

"I try to play the same on every line," Tlusty said. "I don't always want to look to pass to Eric Staal because other teams expect that. We have 'Dalps' on the right side and we have to use his speed because he's such a good skater and can open up space for Staaler. We just want to keep it simple and work hard."

Foward Jeff Skinner, who practiced for the first time Monday as he recovers from a concussion, was at the morning skate today, again wearing a yellow, no-contact jersey. Winger Patrick Dwyer, out the past three games with an upper-body injury, was back on the ice today in a no-contact jersey.

Muller indicated both Skinner and Dwyer would continue no-contact work for the next couple of practices after today's game.

Cam Ward will be in net tonight for the Canes. Defenseman Derek Joslin again will be a healthy scratch.

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