Canes await schedule; home opener likely Jan. 22

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 10, 2013 

While everything is in flux and the NHL's upcoming regular-season schedule is ever-changing, it appears the Hurricanes will open Jan. 19 on the road against the Florida Panthers and play their home opener Tuesday, Jan. 22.

General manager Jim Rutherford, in a press conference Thursday, said the NHL regular-season schedules would not be announced until the NHL players had ratified the new collective bargaining agreement. The players will vote Friday and Saturday.

Rutherford said he expected the home opener to be played at PNC Arena on Jan. 22 but said he was not sure of the opponent. While he confirmed the Canes would open on the road, he could not confirm if they would face the Panthers.

The first order of business will be training camp, which should begin Sunday with player physicals, then an afternoon practice session at Raleigh Center Ice. The team must quickly decide on a roster, which Rutherford said could include "at least" six or seven players who began the season with the Charlotte Checkers (AHL).

Defenseman Justin Faulk, one of the NHL's top rookies last season, will return from Charlotte. The Canes also could add either backup Justin Peters or Dan Ellis as a backup goalie. Others that could be in the mix are defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti and forwards Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe, Jeremy Welsh and Tim Wallace.

"For the most part, they've all had a taste of the NHL, most of them last year got their feet wet and I think they're an eager group," Canes coach Kirk Muller said.

Rutherford said the Canes still were looking for a player to give the third or fourth line "a little more grit." It's possible the team could look to make an early trade, although a trade could be simply to open up a roster spot for a Charlotte player.

Rutherford acknowledged that many people had been affected by the lengthy lockout, which he call "an unfortunate time." He said the team has marketing promotions planned to help win back disgruntled fans -- Rutherford said the Canes lost 7 percent of its ticket base during the lockout.

"You never know what to expect when these things happen," he said. "In the early going of the lockout, the percentage ... was between one and two percent. As we got closer to the holiday season that number grew."

Rutherford said seven percent was a "very low number" that underscored the loyalty of his ticket holders. He also said since Sunday's announcement of a CBA agreement, the Canes had been selling "a lot" of season tickets and hoped to gain back the seven percent loss and sell even more.

"We have some work to do," Rutherford said of rebuilding the ticket base. "I view it the same way as when we first moved here (from Hartford in 1997). We had to build our fans one by one, seat by seat. If that's what we have to do again, that's what we'll do."

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