RALEIGH — Carolina Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller has used the phrase often in recent weeks as the losses mounted.
I know I sound like a broken record ... he said.
But theres no other way to put it. The Hurricanes are in such a deep slump that the losses 13 in the past 14 games, and eight straight at home seem to blend together. Many have unfolded in the same ways, leaving Muller to repeat himself.
It has also been reminiscent of the Canes past losing streaks and slumps.
In December and January of the 2002-2003 season, the Hurricanes dropped seven consecutive home games. That was the franchise record until Tuesday, when the Canes dropped their eighth in a row in a 5-3 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Early in the 2009-2010 season, the Hurricanes went through a 14-game winless streak that tied a franchise mark. They picked up four points with two overtime losses and two shootout losses (0-10-4) while this years slide (1-12-1) has produced just three points.
Goaltender Cam Ward was injured during the 14-game streak in 2009, cutting his leg in a road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Ward suffered a third-degree knee sprain on March 3 of this year, a few games before the recent 14-game skid began.
The Hurricanes had numerous injuries during the 2002-2003 season, which former team captain Ron Francis said was probably the most difficult of his career. Injuries this season have forced the Canes to rely heavily on callups from the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) such as center Riley Nash, defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti and goalie Justin Peters.
This are all learning experiences right now, Muller said after the Penguins game.
Or growing pains. The losses have been painful for the Canes and their fans.
It always hurts to lose, Nash said. I think every night the last four or five games weve come to compete and really just coming out in the wrong end...Its just really tough.
The Canes fell to 7-13 at PNC Arena with the loss to the Penguins the worst home record in the NHL. In Mullers opinion, the Hurricanes are trying too hard to please the home fans, especially in a shortened season that began with such promise.
I think a lot of it has to do with you get in those bad ruts, theres more pressure at home, Muller said Tuesday. Expectations are higher. Theres a little more pressure at home for results. You go on the road and can play a nice, simple game.
I think its more the case of we go out and were ready to play, then you get scored on. When youre fragile and youre at home, when those things happen the guys tighten up on the sticks and squeeze it a little tighter.
The Canes (16-21-2) have been outscored 34-12 in the home losing streak and have often fallen apart during nightmarish second periods. That made Tuesdays game an exception.
The Canes fought the Penguins, the Eastern Conference leaders, to a 2-2 tie after the first period. The second period was scoreless as the Canes outshot the Penguins.
They came out hard and strong and they are an aggressive team, Pens coach Dan Bylsma said.
Carolina took a 3-2 lead early in the third on a goal by Nash, only to have the Penguins Beau Bennett and Evgeni Malkin score twice in 13 seconds midway through the period. Pittsburghs Pascal Dupuis scored an empty-net goal in the final seconds.
We played hard with them and if anything, we can say we can play with these guys, Muller said. But you have to be mentally tough to play this game. Youve got to stick with it and grind through it.
The Hurricanes dropped their last six games in regulation, falling 10 points behind the Washington Capitals, who have surged into the lead in the Southeast Division. The Canes will face the Capitals on Thursday at the Verizon Center in a game that now has much less importance two teams headed in opposite directions.
In 2009, the Canes finally ended the 14-game winless streak with a 5-4 win against Minnesota at home. The winning shootout goal for Carolina came from Jussi Jokinen, who was with the Penguins Tuesday night.
NOTES: The Canes on Wednesday recalled forwards Nicholas Blanchard and Tim Wallace from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL while reassigning forward Zac Dalpe to the Checkers. Dalpe played the past three games for the Canes and had a goal against the New York Rangers. ...
The Canes signed University of Wisconsin forward Brendan Woods to a three-year, entry-level contract. Woods, 20, was a fifth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and just completed his sophomore year in college.
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