A dozen locked-out Canes skate on their own

calexander@newsobserver.comSeptember 18, 2012 

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The Canes Jussi Jokinen (36), center, celebrates his goal with teammates Joni Pitkanen (25) and Patrick Dwyer (39) during the first period of an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Calgary Flames at the RBC Center in Raleigh on Jan. 11, 2011.

CHRIS SEWARD — cseward@newsobserver.com

— It was a smaller group of Carolina Hurricanes players who skated Monday at Raleigh Center Ice, their voices echoing about a nearly deserted rink.

There were 12 players on the ice and only three fans in the stands to watch. With the players now locked out by the NHL, the Canes’ locker room area was off-limits to the players, leaving them to use a cramped dressing area and lug equipment bags to their cars and trucks.

"I think right now it’s kind of surreal," forward Patrick Dwyer said. "You’re here and out there skating, and trying to get going, and get the guys motivated to do stuff.

"You sit there and you go, ‘How long is it going to be, how long are we going to do this?’ Right now it’s more uncertainty than anger. We just have to sit back and let the process work itself out."

So much had happened since the Canes players skated Friday at RCI. With no new collective bargaining agreement in place, the NHL ordered the lockout to commence at midnight Saturday.

On Friday, forwards Jiri Tlusty and Jussi Jokinen skated with their teammates. By Monday, Tlusty had plans to head back to the Czech Republic and Jokinen to return to Finland to play for pro teams in their home countries.

Most of the players Monday, including defenseman Joni Pitkanen, said they were unsure of their plans. If the lockout lingers to the point regular-season games are being cancelled, more players could leave to play overseas if the opportunity is there.

One player who had plans for being in Raleigh early this month was forward Alexander Semin, his agent said Monday. Mark Gandler said Semin, a free agent who signed a one-year, $7 million contract with Carolina in July, decided to stay in his hometown of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, because of the contentious CBA talks and a pending lockout.

Gandler said Semin would continue to train and practice with a developmental league team in Krasnoyarsk – "It’s similar to the AHL," he said – and may play some of the home games.

"He had been training very, very hard with plans on coming to Carolina," Gandler said. "But with little chance of an agreement (on a CBA), we saw no reason for him to make the 17-hour flight and then perhaps leave almost right away.

"The decision was made to wait it out, and sure enough the lockout came upon us. So he’ll probably play for the local team and stay in good shape."

There have been media reports Semin had agreed to play for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), but Gandler said, "It’s a lie. He wasn’t even close to signing."

The Canes’ Eric Staal and Cam Ward were trying to make sense Monday of the stalled CBA negotiations – or what defenseman Jay Harrison called the "ugly side of the business." Again, no formal talks were held Monday between the NHL and NHL Players Association.

"No one wants to be in this situation or position," Staal said. "You make the best of what it is right now. You hope that both sides can at least get to the table and start negotiating for real.

"I don’t think for either side there’s any reason to be sitting out and not playing. They need to come up with some ideas and get to the table, whether you’re just looking at each other or you’re talking. I think you need to get there and continue to negotiate, to get a deal done as soon as possible for the fans’ sake and everybody’s sake."

For now, the players will continue to work, skate and wait.

"It’s obviously very frustrating," Ward said. "You go through the entire summer preparing for the upcoming season with your training and being ready, and now you’re locked out. It’s disappointing, but it’s a good sign to see the guys here and still skating, and showing we’re doing everything we can to prepare ourselves for when this thing does sort itself out."

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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