Westgarth traded as Canes look to make changes

calexander@newsobserver.comDecember 30, 2013 

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said Monday that a shakeup could be coming for a team that has lost eight of their past nine games.

Rutherford said he had a one-hour meeting with coach Kirk Muller and Ron Francis, vice president of hockey operations, to discuss all options.

“We need to change some things and we need to change them quickly,” Rutherford said Monday. “We need to stop the slide and stop it now.”

The Canes, winless in their past five games, have fallen to 14-16-9 and seventh in the NHL’s Metropolitan Division with 37 points. One saving grace for Carolina: through Sunday’s games the Canes were three points out of third place and playoff position.

“There’s no doubt in my mind our team is good enough to compete in our conference, so it’s been very disappointing and frustrating,” Rutherford said. “We have a handful of players who are not playing up to their potential and contributing enough. They’ve got to get going.”

Rutherford did not rule out trades, saying he was on the phone Sunday night and Monday morning. Later Monday, the Canes dealt forward Kevin Westgarth to the Calgary Flames for forward Greg Nemisz, a first-round draft pick by the Flames in 2008.

Westgarth, the son-in-law of former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, has been used mostly as a fourth-line winger and has played in 12 games this season. Nemisz, 22, has been with the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL this season and will report to the Charlotte Checkers, the Canes’ AHL affiliate.

Rutherford said a deal involving a goaltender also remains a possibility, noting the Canes need to return to a two-goalie system.

Rutherford said Cam Ward likely would start Tuesday’s game against Montreal at PNC Arena. He said Anton Khudobin, who has been assigned to the Checkers on a conditioning stint, probably will get a start for Carolina this week at Washington or against the New York Islanders.

Khudobin has been out since Oct. 13 with an ankle injury and on NHL injured reserve. He started Sunday for the Checkers, making 36 saves during a 4-3 loss to the Chicago Wolves.

Goalie Justin Peters had started five of the past six games for Carolina before Sunday’s game in Toronto, when Ward was in net in a 5-2 loss.

“We may make a trade to change the mix of the team, but with the (salary) cap system it’s not easy to make trades,” Rutherford said. “It’s not like the day before Christmas where you can run over to Target and pick something off the shelf. You need a trade partner.”

During the five-game slide, Carolina has had overtime losses to Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, and had long stretches of good play in regulation losses to the Caps, Columbus Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs.

“We can’t get frustrated,” Muller said Monday. “We’re playing good hockey, but the results aren’t there at the end. We’ve got to go back where we started the season, where we were checkers and we played well without the puck and gave ourselves a chance to win all these tight games. We’ve got to get back to that mentality.”

Muller made a few line changes Monday during practice, moving right winger Alex Semin back on Eric Staal’s line. Tuomo Ruutu was shifted to right wing on Riley Nash’s line and Patrick Dwyer reunited with winger Nathan Gerbe and center Jordan Staal.

Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said his team was overmatched by the Canes at times Sunday. But the Maple Leafs, getting 41 saves from Jonathan Bernier, picked up the victory and two points.

“We did not have the will to win the game,” Rutherford said. “We didn’t get enough traffic in front of the net and didn’t make it difficult enough for their goalie.

“We need consistency. We need a consistent 60 minutes, not 50 or 55. And we need everyone going. It’s a tough league and you need everyone going.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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