Semin gets settled in with Hurricanes

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 13, 2013 

  • Five questions as season approaches Q: Who replaces Tuomo Ruutu in the top six forwards? A: General manager Jim Rutherford has ruled out a trade for a winger to replace Ruutu, who had hip surgery. It’s possible either Zach Boychuk, who leads the Charlotte Checkers in scoring this season, or the Checkers’ Drayson Bowman will get the first look. Q: Who will be the backup goalie? A: Initially, with Brian Boucher coming off shoulder surgery, the Canes planned on Justin Peters being Cam Ward’s backup. The lockout allowed Boucher enough time to recover, but the Canes may decide to let Boucher play games in the AHL early in the season and call up veteran Dan Ellis, who has shared goaltending duties with Peters for the Checkers. Q: Will Jordan Staal and Eric Staal play on the same line? A: Ruutu’s hip injury likely ended any plans to use the Staal brothers together. Canes coach Kirk Muller said they will center the top two lines, giving Canes more of a “1-2 punch.” Q: How many players who started the season with the Checkers will make the Canes’ roster? A: That number could hinge on whether the Canes make trades to free up roster spots. It’s possible six could make it. Q: Can defenseman Ryan Murphy make the jump from junior hockey to the Canes? A: Murphy has been invited to training camp for the second straight year but likely is headed back to the Kitchener Rangers for another season of junior hockey. He has offensive flair, but there still are concerns about his play in the defensive zone.

— Alexander Semin arrived at Raleigh Center Ice on Saturday carrying a red Washington Capitals equipment bag, but he didn’t leave with it.

Semin ditched it for a red Carolina Hurricanes bag. He now has a new team, a new home. The bag change seemed symbolic, giving finality to the Russian forward making the move from Caps to the Canes.

Semin joined the Hurricanes players for their last informal workout before training camp begins. The NHL players finished up their vote Saturday morning to ratify the league’s new collective bargaining agreement, and the signing of a memorandum of understanding by the NHL and NHL Players Association — expected Saturday night — was the only thing keeping the league from being fully back open for business.

Once the MOU is signed, the NHL can release its regular-season schedule. NHL teams can release training camp rosters and schedules.

The Hurricanes plan to call up players from the Charlotte Checkers for camp. Carolina could not release that information until the MOU was signed, but the Checkers did not have forwards Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman, Tim Wallace and Jeremy Welsh; defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti and goalie Dan Ellis in their lineup Saturday night for an AHL game against Oklahoma City.

The Hurricanes hope to hold a first camp practice Sunday at PNC Arena that would be open to the public. Carolina is expected to open the season Jan. 19 on the road against the Florida Panthers.

Semin was one of the Canes’ big offseason acquisitions, signing a one-year, $7 million contract. He stayed in Russia during the NHL lockout, returning to the U.S. this past week and meeting his new teammates for the first time Saturday morning at RCI.

“Everything so far is good,” Semin said through his agent, Todd Diamond, who served as an interpreter. “Everything is new — the team, the area, the teammates. But so far everything is positive and I have very positive thoughts coming into the season.”

Semin believes he is in good game shape, ready for the demands of a condensed NHL season. In Russia, he first worked out with a developmental team in his hometown of Krasnoyarsk, then played for Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in the KHL.

Semin downplayed any transition problems that could come from playing for a Southeast Division rival he once tormented — Semin had 27 goals and 45 points in 41 career games against Carolina.

“We’re hockey players,” he said. “It’s our chosen life. Today the guy is the enemy, the next day he’s your best buddy in another locker room.”

Semin noted he has competed so many times against Carolina that he “knows the style they are playing” and is “excited to see how it will go.” He said he has met with Canes coach Kirk Muller and said Muller told him he “really likes my style of play and thinks it will be a really good fit.”

The Canes signed Semin, in part, to give Eric Staal a scoring winger on his line. Semin has scored 197 career goals and has 408 points in 469 regular-season games, all with the Caps, who made him the 13th overall pick of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.

“Hopefully it can mean another 30 or 40 goals for us,” Canes defenseman Tim Gleason said. “That would be a huge punch for us.”

Semin was a 40-goal scorer in the 2009-2010 season, but scored 28 and 21 the past two seasons. Asked if he had set any numerical goals for this season, he quickly said, “Nyet.”

“I’m going to do the best I can and score as many as I can,” Semin said. “I want to help the team. I want to be an important player.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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