The Carolina Hurricanes are coming off a stellar season and are among the favorites again in the Eastern Conference. The long process required, in order to play meaningful games in the spring, begins for Carolina with Wednesday night’s season opener against the visiting Ottawa Senators at Raleigh, N.C. “That’s what everyone is waiting for,” Hurricanes goalie Frederik Andersen said. “It’s a long journey.”
The Hurricanes were in good shape to reach the Stanley Cup Final last season until they were swept in four games by the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference finals. They’re eager to start a clean slate. “The guys understand it starts now,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Proud of how the guys worked for a couple of weeks. We’re good, but there’s another level we have to get to.”
The Hurricanes were encouraged by the preseason.
“It’s there and it has got to be consistent,” Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal said. “The group is ready to go. We’ve been practicing hard. But it’s hard to replicate a game. It’s exciting to get into the games and get into the real stuff.”
There’s a degree of confidence with the Senators as well. “We feel like we’re ready to go and we worked on a lot of things,” Ottawa right winger Claude Giroux said. “You can just feel it in the locker room. Guys are ready to get going here.” Said teammate Brady Tkachuk: “Your aspirations and goals for the season are coming up here starting on Wednesday.” Andersen, who’s expected to be in the Carolina crease when the season begins, said he did enough quality work during the preseason to be in a good frame of mind.
“All the stuff,” he said. “Try to work on everything and get comfortable.”
It’s a crowded blue line for Hurricanes, with decisions to make.
Defenseman Anthony DeAngelo is back with the Hurricanes. He played for Carolina in 2021-22, then was with the Philadelphia Flyers last year before rejoining the Hurricanes. Dmitry Orlov was considered a key offseason acquisition.
Defenseman Brady Skjei is coming off his best season for the Hurricanes and Jaccob Slavin is a staple in the lineup.
“We’ve got some really good ‘D.’ That’s a good thing. We’ll figure it out,” Brind’Amour said. “We’re trying to manage it the best way we can. I think it will all work out.”
The Senators had a 39-35-8 record last season, showing quite a bit of progress at times under coach D.J. Smith.
“I think everyone is just excited to go out and pick up where we left off last year and get off to a good start,” Senators left wing Parker Kelly said. The Senators went 6-2 in the preseason. “We get better every game, too,” center Ridly Greig said. “That’s always a good thing.” For the Senators, there are roles that are yet to be fully defined. “I know there’s a lot of unknowns right now,” Greig said. Carolina won two of three games against the Senators last season. The teams split two 3-2 decisions in April.