A busy first day for the Carolina Hurricanes

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 14, 2013 

  • Training camp practice schedule All practices start at 11 a.m. and are open to public. Monday: PNC Arena Tuesday: Raleigh Center Ice Wednesday: PNC Arena Thursday: PNC Arena Friday: PNC Arena First game Saturday, 7:30 p.m., At Florida First home game Tuesday, Jan. 22, 7 p.m., Tampa Bay Regular-season ticket information available at www.carolinahurricanes.com

— Talk about having a busy first day.

The Carolina Hurricanes packed a lot into Sunday. They made an early trade, sending goalie Brian Boucher and defensive prospect Mark Alt to the Philadelphia Flyers for forward Luke Pither. They signed goalie Dan Ellis to a one-year contract. They dealt forward Anthony Stewart to the Los Angeles Kings for forward Kevin Westgarth.

Westgarth, the son-in-law of former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, lives in Raleigh in the offseason. He’s a big guy at 6-4 and 234 pounds who should give the Canes that added grit in the lineup that general manager Jim Rutherford has been seeking.

So much for the business side of things. On the first day after the NHL lockout ended, training camps opened and the league went back to work, the Cane had player physicals in the morning, then a long, productive practice Sunday afternoon at PNC Arena.

"They’re anxious to get going,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said of his players. “You can’t fake body language and we had a bunch of excited guys coming in the door."

And into a newly renovated locker room at PNC Arena. The players were allowed their first look at the extensive redesign -- at the newly appointed lockers topped by a collage of memorable moments and players from the Canes’ past.

"It was pretty cool coming in," team captain Eric Staal said. “We want some new memories.”

There was skating -- a lot of it. Cam Ward, recovered from the flu, and Ellis were in the nets, and Muller looked at line combinations and defensive pairs that he may use in the Jan. 19 season opener against the Florida Panthers.

Ellis was among the six players called up Saturday from the Charlotte Checkers. The veteran goalie, who made the Checkers’ roster after a training-camp tryout, signed a one-year deal with the Hurricanes worth a prorated $650,000.

Ellis and Justin Peters both have played well in goal for the Checkers, but Rutherford said Ellis’ more extensive NHL experience was the deciding factor in the callup. Ellis was with the Anaheim Ducks last season but was out much of the year with a groin injury -- as was Boucher with the Canes.

Pither, 23, has spent much of this season in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) with the Wheeling Nailers and Trenton Titans. He was assigned to the Checkers.

In picking up Westgarth from the Kings, the Canes parted with Stewart, a 2013 fourth-round draft pick and a 2014 sixth-round pick. Westgarth, 28, played 25 games for the Stanley Cup champions last year, notching one goal, one assist and 39 penalty minutes.

“He’s a good team guy, character guy and gives us some added toughness,” Rutherford said.

The Canes must quickly put together lines. On Sunday, Eric Staal centered the top line with Alexander Semin on the right side and Jiri Tlusty on the left. Jordan Staal’s line had Jeff Skinner at left wing and Chad LaRose on the right side, and Jussi Jokinen was the third-line center with Andreas Nodl on the left side and Pat Dwyer at right wing.

The fourth line had Tim Brent at center with wingers Zach Boychuk and Tim Wallace. Winger Drayson Bowman and center Jeremy Welsh also alternated on the lines.

The D pairs had Tim Gleason with Joe Corvo, Joni Pitkanen with Justin Faulk, Jay Harrison teaming with Jamie McBain and Ryan Murphy with Bobby Sanguinetti.

"It’s the first day but at the same time it’s the middle of January. It’s not September 15th," Faulk said. “This lockout was pretty long, obviously. You look around and guys have smiles on their faces and are happy to be here. There’s a lot of energy and that carried over onto the ice."

More than a thousand fans turned out Sunday at PNC Arena -- all practice sessions are open to the public -- and gave the players and coaches a nice hand after the workout. The players in turn lifted their sticks to salute the fans.

"It was awesome to see them," Eric Staal said. "We’ve got a passionate base here of the people who love the game. It’s been a long, drawn-out process for them. It was special for them to be here."

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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