Carolina Hurricanes

Canes' Kris Versteeg: ‘We’ve all got to find our swagger’

The Canes’ Kris Versteeg (32) hits the ice as he battles the Leafs Morgan Rielly (44) and Matt Hunwick (2) during the third period at PNC Arena in Raleigh.
The Canes’ Kris Versteeg (32) hits the ice as he battles the Leafs Morgan Rielly (44) and Matt Hunwick (2) during the third period at PNC Arena in Raleigh. cseward@newsobserver.com

Kris Versteeg said Friday the Carolina Hurricanes were finding ways to lose after a 2-1 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The reverse of that, of course, is finding ways to win.

Versteeg, having played with two Stanley Cup champions with the Chicago Blackhawks, believes the Canes can do that. There’s enough overall talent, the veteran forward said, on this Canes team to win and win consistently in time.

”This is a young team with a lot of guys just coming into the league,” Versteeg said Saturday. “It’s a tough league, you know. Winning doesn’t come overnight. It takes time and a lot of effort, collectively, from everybody.

“We’ve found ways to lose but there has been a positive. We’ve given ourselves a shot, I’d say, in 95 percent of the games. Going into the third period we’re always there. It takes a long time to learn how to do it, but once you do it you become more confident and hopefully (winning) starts coming.”

The Canes (6-10-3) are winless in their last five games and last in the Eastern Conference heading into a Sunday matinee matchup against the Los Angeles Kings at PNC Arena. Two of the losses were in overtime and the Maple Leafs tied the score Friday late in regulation and then claimed the shootout.

How can the Canes flip it around?

“It comes obviously from digging in a little deeper and doing things maybe out the norm that you wouldn’t do,” Versteeg said. “To be a consistent winning team is tough. It takes a lot of work and chemistry and understanding each other, and I think that’s coming along.

“We have a lot of good players and players that have done it before. We’ve all got to find our swagger. When pucks are going in, it gives you a little more swagger. When they don’t, you press a little more. You don’t want to do that because you don’t want to give up more chances defensively. But we definitely have the guys to do it.”

Versteeg, who won Cups with the Blackhawks in 2010 and again last season, said the Canes do sense they’re snakebit. Whatever can go wrong appears to be going wrong.

“I know I feel extremely snakebit,” he said. “You’re getting good looks and chances and for whatever reason the pucks aren’t going in.

“I think sometimes we could get more of a net-front presence as a whole, including myself. That’s generally where you find most pucks in the NHL.”

The Canes put in a practice Saturday at PNC Arena and were missing center Jordan Staal. Canes coach Bill Peters said Staal was sore after being hit by a shot Friday but should play Sunday.

Peters had Eric Staal centering Chris Terry and Elias Lindholm on Saturday, with Victor Rask at center with Jeff Skinner and Versteeg. Lindholm started on Rask’s line against the Leafs and Versteeg was with Staal.

Peters said the lineup should remain the same for the Kings game. Cam Ward again will start in net, Peters said.

The Kings (12-7-0) lead the Pacific Division and are 5-2-0 on the road but are coming off a 3-2 loss Friday in Detroit. They blanked the Canes 3-0 in Los Angeles on Oct. 23 as Jonathan Quick had 40 saves and Tyler Toffoli scored twice. The Kings led 1-0 entering the third.

“We’ve got to find a way to get on the inside,” Peters said. “They’ve got a very good, physical back end, good goaltending. Generating Grade A opportunities will be at a premium and then the ability to finish them off.”

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