Cam Ward was the first to wear it. The goaltender then awarded it to defenseman Justin Faulk, who packed it up Tuesday for the trip to Columbus, Ohio.
The Carolina Hurricanes have started a new team tradition, giving out a red fireman’s helmet after each victory to the star of the game. Canes coach Bill Peters had to wait until the ninth game to make the first selection, which was a fairly easy one Saturday after Ward made 25 saves in a 3-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes in the first victory of the season.
Faulk then wore it Sunday after the Canes’ 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, the defending Stanley Cup champions. Now, it’s his turn to hand it off.
Who knows, it could be to Alexander Semin.
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Peters wouldn’t mind seeing that happen. After making the forward a healthy scratch the past two games, Peters talked Monday as if Semin would be back in the lineup Tuesday for the Canes’ road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
While saying a final decision had not been made, Peters had Semin, center Eric Staal and left wing Jiri Tlusty back together on the top line at practice.
“I think we’ll go with that moving forward,” Peters said. “That line has to be a line at some point that is very productive and be a line, when we go on the road, that (opponents) have to pay attention to and possibly match up with their No. 1 line or checking line. It gives us the opportunity to see if they can establish the chemistry that had in the past.”
One decision that has been made is that Ward will again be the starter in net, playing his fourth consecutive game.
“We’re going to stay with the hot goaltender,” Peters said.
While Peters had some questions about Semin’s commitment to playing his best and at an NHL pace, there were none about Faulk – not Sunday. He took a deflected puck just below the mouth in Saturday’s game, left the ice bleeding, was stitched up, returned to play with a full-cage helmet and then put in 25 minutes in a plus-2 game against the Kings.
“He was real good,” Peters said Monday. “He was dynamic with the puck. He made more plays with the puck (and) he had the puck a lot. He had poise and was very efficient with his minutes. He was very physical.”
Faulk said he needed 10 stitches Saturday to close the gash, smiling and saying the pain wasn’t so bad after being stuck with a needle “about five times.” He already has a similar scar from a cut a few years back that required 16 stitches.
By the time the second period began against the Coyotes, Faulk was good to go.
“It’s just mentality we have,” Faulk said. “I mean, guys want to play. It’s the nature of the beast. Guys are willing to do whatever they can to help the team win.
“At times, that does mean playing with injuries. I don’t think you could go around the room and say there’s one guy who’s sitting here feeling exactly the same as he did in September when (training) camp opened up.”
Peters called the Canes (2-6-2) a “healthy” team Monday, cognizant that center Jordan Staal is out long-term with a broken leg. But forwards Eric Staal, Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Dwyer all have returned from injuries in the past week, allowing the coach to make some lineup moves – and hold out Semin, who has a $7 million-per-season salary.
Eric Staal is the team captain and makes the top line more formidable. Dwyer and Gerbe have given the Canes added speed on the ice, and both can be excellent penalty killers, if needed.
The lingering question: how will Semin respond after being a healthy scratch? That remains to be seen.
“With people getting back in the lineup I think you’re seeing pieces fall where they were originally planned to be,” Dwyer said Monday. “Some guys were slotted up due to the injuries and been in roles maybe they’re not accustomed to. Now they’re where they were going to be, where they’re comfortable.
“We can also look forward to January or February when we get Jordan back. We’ll have a good foundation built by then.”