Canes ready to get back to playing

Posted by Chip Alexander on January 18, 2014 

The Canes, after three days of intense practices, had an energetic morning skate Saturday at Raleigh Center Ice.

As for what that will mean Saturday night, when the Canes face the Florida Panthers at PNC Arena, it's hard to say until the puck drops.

"I think the energy will be there," defenseman John-Michael Liles said after the skate. "When you have a few days between games you try to take advantage of it and just make sure you're ready to go once the games start again. It's about making sure you're focused on the task at hand, and use these days to work on the things we needed to work on, and kind of regroup and maybe heal some bumps and bruises.

"Now, it's back to the grind. It's a tough stretch, especially with the Olympic break, with how the season plays out with a certain number of games in a certain number of days. Ultimately, it's about being ready to play those games."

The Canes on Saturday had Eric Staal centering a line with Tlusty and Alex Semin, Jordan Staal centering Nathan Gerbe and Pat Dwyer, Elias Lindholm at center with Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu and Manny Malhotra centering Drayson Bowman and Radek Dvorak. Malhotra also was used at wing with Nash at center and Dvorak on the wing.

The defensive pairs had Justin Faulk with Andrej Sekera, Ron Hainsey with Liles, Jay Harrison with Mike Komisarek and Brett Bellemore with Ryan Murphy. Bellemore and Murphy had extra work after the skate and likely will be healthy scratches against the Panthers (18-22-7).

Anton Khudobin should be the starter in net, although Canes coach Kirk Muller said Justin Peters will soon get a game. Peters' last start was Dec. 27 against Pittsburgh as Khudobin has started the past six games.

The Canes (19-18-9) host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday to complete the back-to-back at home.

"We definitely want to get (Peters) in," Muller said. "Like I've said, we'll keep going game to game. This stretch from here to the Olympics is a whole different one from the previous one, where we've had space in there to use one goalie. We're definitely going to need two goalies down the stretch.

"We talked to him yesterday. He's aware of it, so he has to stay ready to go. He could be in tomorrow or he could be in the following game."

Muller said goalie Cam Ward, who has a lower-body injury and has not played since Dec. 31, continues to rehab and has not begun skating.

Looking at the unusual four-day break between games, Muller said, "It's not the perfect schedule but you have to turn it into a positive. We used it to focus on the details, work on different stuff, re-energize the guys, get some rest but work hard in the practices. We should be a focused team, ready to go."

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