Metropolitan Division 2014-15 Preview: Carolina Hurricanes
COACH: Bill Peters
2013-2014 RECORD: 36-35-11, 83 points (seventh in Metropolitan, missed playoffs)
VITAL SIGNS: 9.5 goals per game (22nd), 2.8 goals-against per game (19th); 14.6 power play pct. (28th); 81.7 penalty kill pct. (17th); shootout record: 2-4 (25th)
NOTABLE DEPARTURES: G Justin Peters, C Manny Malhotra
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
OUTLOOK: The Hurricanes and new coach Bill Peters will start the season with their backs against the wall due to Jordan Staal’s devastating leg injury during the preseason. Carolina will be without its second-line center, a major component of its penalty kill and perhaps its best two-way player for at least three months, so staying in some semblance of contention for a playoff berth is a lot to ask of a team that struggled in a solid division last season but failed to add any major pieces during the summer. Peters will have to hope he can coax sniper Alexander Semin into a performance reminiscent of his halcyon days in Washington, while youngsters Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask might have to shoulder some of the offensive burden. Scoring was a problem for the ‘Canes last season as well. Rising star Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera are a worthy first-line pair of defensemen in a serviceable blueline corps, but if the forwards fail to produce and Cam Ward does not rediscover his old Conn Smythe form, Carolina could be in for another long, dark winter.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Skinner
With 33 goals in 71 games last season, Skinner returned to the form that won him the Calder Trophy for 2010-11. His eye for goals will be essential to keeping the Hurricanes in games when their other big-name forwards, Eric Staal and Semin, draw the attention of the opposing team’s top defensive players.
PREDICTION: 76 points (eighth in Metropolitan)