SUNRISE, Fla. — Dan Ellis wasn’t expecting to make his Carolina Hurricanes debut anytime soon, certainly not 20 minutes into the season. Yet there he was, in net to begin the second period after Cam Ward allowed four first-period goals on 12 Florida Panthers shots on Saturday.
Ellis, who won the backup job based on his first-half play for Charlotte (AHL), ended up stopping 12 of the 13 shots he faced over the final two periods in the 5-1 Hurricanes loss.
“You have to be ready for anything,” Ellis said. “The one thing is, there’s been a lot of time off, and there’s going to be some rust in different games. It’s going to take a little bit of time to fine-tune some things. Fortunately a handful of guys have been playing, myself I’ve played a few games already, so it was a little bit easier going in than if I hadn’t played at all.”
NEW FACES: This was the second consecutive game the Hurricanes have played at the BB&T Center, a mere 9 1/2 months apart, and not only is it a new season but many of the faces are new as well.
For various reasons – the inevitable turnover during the first offseason under the new coaching staff, the lockout, injuries – the 23-man roster available to take the ice against the Panthers featured seven players who weren’t around on April 7. Of the 22 players available that night, five have left the organization, Andreas Nodl is in Charlotte (AHL) and Tuomo Ruutu is injured.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s changed that much,” Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner said. “We’ve been together all week and we’ve grown pretty close. It doesn’t feel like that many. Obviously, with the new guys, there’s a lot of excitement.”
Only four of this year’s newcomers have never played for the Hurricanes: Ellis, Alexander Semin, Jordan Staal and Kevin Westgarth.
One result of the changes: With an average age of 27.3 years, the Hurricanes are the third-youngest team in the NHL, behind only Columbus (26.9) and Edmonton (27.2). (Carolina is one of five teams with an official average of 27.3.) The Panthers, at 29.8, are the second-oldest team in the league.
CAGE FREE: After practice on Friday, Justin Faulk handed his helmet, with its full-face cage attached, to an equipment manager and said, “Get rid of this thing!” The defenseman had needed the cage for protection after breaking his jaw in December while playing for the Checkers.
Faulk wore a full cage during his one year of college hockey for Minnesota-Duluth, but disliked wearing it so much over the past few weeks he convinced doctors to let him take it off ahead of schedule, before the NHL regular season began.
“It was not fun going back,” Faulk said.
TAILWINDS: The Hurricanes outshot the Panthers 30-13 over the final two periods. … Jamie McBain, Jeremy Welsh and Kevin Westgarth were scratched as Bobby Sanguinetti starts the season as the sixth defenseman and Muller went with a fourth line of Drayson Bowman, Tim Brent and Patrick Dwyer. “I’m very comfortable playing any of those five forwards,” Muller said. … Equipment manager Skip Cunningham began his 40th season with the organization.
DeCock: @LukeDeCock, (919) 829-8947