Gerbe stars as Hurricanes beat Blue Jackets

calexander@newsobserver.comSeptember 26, 2013 

— Carolina Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller was hoping for something close to a full dress rehearsal Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Because of injuries, Muller didn’t get it. But Nathan Gerbe’s two goals were the difference in a 2-1 Hurricanes win.

Gerbe scored the winner with 37.7 seconds left in regulation after Jordan Staal made a key play near the blue line and passed to Patrick Dwyer. Dwyer then set up Gerbe, who beat Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

Gerbe scored his first goal late in the second period to tie the score 1-1.

Ward had 25 saves and Muller said he would again be in net Friday when the Canes host the Buffalo Sabres in their final preseason game.

“I had a lot of confidence and could be my normal, calm self,” Ward said. “I needed a game like this.”

Muller agreed.

“It was an important game for him to get back on the horse,” he said.

The Canes have lost defenseman Joni Pitkanen for the season. Muller was hopeful defenseman Tim Gleason would be in the lineup barely a week before the Oct. 4 season opener against the Detroit Red Wings. He also hoped to have forwards Alexander Semin, Tuomo Ruutu, Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm back.

But all are out with injuries. Skinner was set to play Thursday but was sidelined by a lower-body injury. He missed the team practice Thursday morning and should miss the Canes’ final preseason game Friday when Carolina hosts the Buffalo Sabres at PNC Arena.

“We just want to be smart and not push him,” Muller said.

Skinner and Semin could return soon. It’s possible Gleason will as well.

But Ruutu, who suffered a lower-body injury Saturday against Montreal, may be out longer. His status is more worrisome for the Canes given his offseason hip surgery.

The Hurricanes had to deal with another injury during Thursday’s game at Nationwide Arena. Defenseman Brett Bellemore blocked a shot and deflected the puck into his face midway through the second period.

Bellemore, who was bleeding, went off the ice for treatment but returned for the third period.

The Blue Jackets also have had their share of injuries and played without Marian Gaborik, who is on personal leave after a death in the family. Gaborik had a big game last week as Columbus rallied to beat the Canes 5-4 in Carolina’s first preseason game.

The Jackets took a 1-0 lead after a slow-moving first period on a one-timer from the left circle by defenseman Nikita Nikitin. An aggressive forecheck by Columbus and some shaky passing by the Canes kept the puck in the Carolina zone for much of the opening period. The Canes had just six shots in the first 20 minutes.

The Canes had more jump in the second. Gerbe scored unassisted with about two minutes left in the period, making a quick move to the net and jamming the puck past Bobrovsky, who did not play in the first game between the new Metropolitan Division rivals.

Muller said after Thursday’s practice in Raleigh that Ward could be back in net for the Sabres.

SUMMARY

Hurricanes 2, Blue Jackets 1

Carolina0112
Columbus1001

First Period—1, Columbus, Nikitin 1 (Skille, Collins), 13:20. Penalties—Sekera, Car (hooking), 6:43.

Second Period—2, Carolina, Gerbe 2, 18:04. Penalties—Nikitin, Clm (tripping), 2:24; Gerbe, Car (diving), 6:41; Umberger, Clm (tripping), 6:41; Tlusty, Car (hooking), 13:15.

Third Period—3, Carolina, Gerbe 3 (Dwyer, Jo.Staal), 19:22. Penalties—E.Staal, Car (slashing), 10:45; Wisniewski, Clm (interference), 13:01.

Shots on Goal—Carolina 6-9-8—23. Columbus 10-9-7—26.

Power-play opportunities—Carolina 0 of 2; Columbus 0 of 3.

Goalies—Carolina, Ward 1-2-0 (26 shots-25 saves). Columbus, Bobrovsky 1-2-1 (23-21).

A—10,899 (18,144). T—2:18. Referees—Francis Charron, Don Van Massenhoven. Linesmen—Derek Amell, Steve Miller.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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