Canes scatter for the summer as team looks to next season

calexander@newsobserver.comApril 29, 2013 




— The Carolina Hurricanes hoped to be using Monday to prepare for the Stanley Cup playoffs, not packing up equipment bags, doing end-of-year media interviews and completing summer plans.

General manager Jim Rutherford was in Toronto for the NHL Draft Lottery. The Colorado Avalanche won, moving from No. 2 past the Florida Panthers. The Hurricanes – who had just an 8.1 percent chance of winning – retained the No. 5 pick.

Seven Canes players will leave Tuesday for Stockholm, Sweden, and Helsinki, Finland. They’ll compete in the IIHF World Championship – good hockey in a nice European locale with a chance to win a medal, but not what they want.

Eric and Jordan Staal will join forward Jeff Skinner and defenseman Jay Harrison on Team Canada. Defensemen Justin Faulk and Jamie McBain will play for the United States and forward Jiri Tlusty will be on the Czech Republic national team.

“Any time you get a chance to represent your country, you take advantage of that,” Eric Staal said Monday. “The fact I haven’t played further into the spring in a few years also played into it.”

Four, to be exact. The Canes failed to reach the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.

Faulk, 21, will be returning to the World Championship. After an impressive rookie season with the Canes a year ago, he became a goal-scoring star on the blue line in Finland.

A good experience, yes. But Faulk hoped once would be enough, that the Canes would be playoff-bound this season.

“It’s both years we haven’t made it and it’s not fun,” he said. “It’s tough that we’re leaving on this note right now and not even getting a chance to go through even a playoff series. I haven’t experienced that and it’s something I’m looking forward to when it happens. Obviously we’re hoping for a better year next year.”

Skinner also has competed in the World Championship before. Like Faulk, the forward made the most of the international competition in Finland, showing off the playmaking and goal-scoring that had been missing from his game following a concussion last season.

“It was kind of a fresh start and let me regain some confidence,” Skinner said. “There are so many benefits that go with it. On a personal level, you get over there and play with new guys and get to know guys you play against (in the NHL).”

Skinner got to know New York Islanders star John Tavares, who centered his line for Team Canada last year.

“We seemed to click very well,” Tavares said last week. “We had good chemistry. He’s a really tough competitor. He plays with an edge, with is something not too many people may know about him.

“It’s a chance to compete for a gold medal and compete at a very high level. It’s a special opportunity.”

Tavares won’t be at the tournament this year. The Islanders are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

For those headed to Europe, there’s also the matter of the 2014 Winter Olympics. They will be in Sochi, Russia, and it’s expected the NHL will allow its players to continue to participate.

Eric Staal won a gold with Team Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and would like to defend it. That’s one reason he’s going back to the World Championship for the first time since 2008.

“I want to make sure I’m still on the radar,” Staal said.

So does Skinner, 20, who said making the Canadian Olympic team for the first time would be the “top of the top.”

Tlusty will make his first appearance for the Czech Republic in the Worlds. He could have gone last year but may have played fourth-line minutes, and he also had a shoulder problem that needed time to heal.

After a 23-goal season that was fifth-best in the NHL, Tlusty probably won’t be a fourth-liner.

“It’s my first chance and it will definitely be interesting,” Tlusty said. “For Europeans it’s a pretty big thing. I’ll try to go and have fun and prove if I can score in the NHL I can score there, too.”

Preliminary-round play begins Friday in Stockholm and Helsinki. The gold-medal game is Sunday, May 19, in Stockholm.

Russia is the defending champion. Among those bringing back a gold medal last year was the Canes’ Alexander Semin.

“It’s just good to play some competitive hockey in the spring,” Harrison said.

For the Canes, it’s all that’s left.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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