Muller clears up defensive misconception

11/06/2013 2:24 PM

11/06/2013 2:25 PM

Canes coach Kirk Muller said he wanted to clear up a misconception Wednesday: the Canes are not a "defense-first" team.

"I hear it all the time, people are saying, 'Hey, they're playing a defensive style this year,'" Muller said. "We're not. What we're doing is we're playing better in our zone and we've been working since day one on playing well without the puck.

"That should never hinder or affect your offense. Our scoring chances are there as much now as they were last year when we were capitalizing. To me, we're getting the same shots as last year, we've got the same chances. Now we've got to finish on them."

The game Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers was scoreless the first 56 minutes and the Canes did not score until the final minute. But the Canes had 36 shots in regulation, 26 in the final two periods, only to have Flyers goalie Steve Mason turn back them all until Jordan Staal struck to tie the score 1-1. Manny Malhotra's overtime goal won it 2-1.

"Our forecheck's the same, our neutral-zone attack is the same, our system is the same," Muller said. "We just fine-tuned our defensive-zone coverage and worked on that part of it.

"As far as the offense and the shots, they're there. We just have to finish. We need a little more hunger."

The Canes practiced Wednesday at Raleigh Center Ice. Forward Alex Semin was out for a "maintenance day," Muller said.

Injured forwards Jeff Skinner and Kevin Westgarth, and defenseman Tim Gleason all skated before practice and remain "day to day," Muller said. Goalie Anton Khudobin had a light skate and goalie Cam Ward did some off-ice work, he said.

"Cam might be a little ahead of the game," Muller said. "He was feeling pretty good doing some off-ice workouts today."

Skinner traveled to New York on Tuesday to see a doctor about his upper-body injury and Muller said the Canes still were waiting on the results of the medical tests.

The New York Islanders, who face the Canes on Thursday at PNC Arena, also practiced at RCI.

The Canes’ lines remained the same from the Flyers game. Muller leaned on all four lines Tuesday and they responded and contributed.

"It was nice to get involved more," said Drayson Bowman, who was on Malhotra’s line with Radek Dvorak. "It helps you stay in the flow of the game and get your legs under you. You just feel more into the game."

Malhotra and Dborak once were linemates with the New York Rangers in the early 2000s. The other member of the line: Mark Messier. Now it’s Bowman.

"It's great to learn from them," Bowman said. "Their passion for the game is unbelievable."

Canes beat writer Chip Alexander

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