Morning Shavings: Hurricanes host Wild in opener

Two Carolina rookies to make debuts; Stalock vs. Darling in net

Hurricanes center Jordan Staal will captain the Hurricanes against brother Eric and the Minnesota Wild. (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

RALEIGH — The NHL season is finally here for the Hurricanes. The 2017-18 campaign started Wednesday, but Carolina has to wait until tonight’s opener at 7 p.m. at PNC Arena to start its push to return to the postseason. Here are some notes from the morning skate.

  • Devan Dubynk had a chance to earn his 100th career win in Minnesota’s opener in Detroit, but the Wild lost 4-2. He’s unlikely to get it tonight at PNC Arena either: backup Alex Stalock will start in net. That’s a difference of six inches in between the pipes — Dubynk is 6-6, Stalock an even 6 feet — but coach Bill Peters said Carolina will still look to create traffic. “It doesn’t change, we still gotta get in his eyes,” he said.
  • Minnesota is already fighting injuries. Zach Parise missed the opener and won’t play again tonight, and the team’s leading scorer last season, Mikael Granlund, is likely out. “It’s a dent in our lineup,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. Minnesota will play seven defenseman to fill the empty spot, with Gustav Oloffson drawing in.
  • The Wild took some liberties in Detroit’s crease Thursday, and it will be important for Carolina to clear them out in front of starter Scott Darling. “They grind you offensively with some of those bigger bodies,” Peters said. “You look at (Charlie) Coyle, (Eric) Staal and (Nino) Niederreiter, that’s a big, heavy line. And you let them roll around in your zone, you’re going to wear yourself out.”
  • Against the Red Wings, Minnesota twice saw the puck go in the net only to have it wind up “no goal.” Captain Mikko Koivu said the team will continue to create traffic at the net and fight for lose pucks. Would it be nice if the refs didn’t wave them off? “Yeah, that helps,” Koivu said laughing.
  • The Hurricanes have two players making their NHL debuts tonight: forward Janne Kuokkanen and defenseman Haydn Fleury. How are their nerves? Kuokkanen — who will play on a line with Jeff Skinner and Derek Ryan — said he “got a good sleep” ahead of his first NHL game tonight. “A good feeling. I’m ready to focus on the game. I’m ready.”
  • Ryan has played with his share of young players, both with the Hurricanes, in the AHL and overseas. His advice for linemate Kuokkanen? “Kooks is a pretty confident guy,” Ryan said. “He doesn’t seem like he’s that nervous or troubled by his NHL debut or home opener or anything like that. When it gets down to it, all the pageantry in the beginning and they drop the puck; it’s just another hockey game, right? Same thing you’ve done a million times before. So maybe I’ll tell him that.”
  • Fleury, who will pair with Trevor van Riemsdyk, said he was prepared for his debut. “Now it just comes down to going out there and playing.” His parents, aunt and uncle will all be at PNC Arena to witness it. “Everyone talks about their first couple shifts being a bit nervous and you can’t really feel the puck because your hands are shaking and stuff like that,” he said. “But, you know, everyone goes through it, so I just gotta enjoy it.”
  • Fleury took three years after being drafted — two in junior and one in AHL Charlotte — to make his way to the NHL. He’s filled out — at 221 pounds, he’s Carolina’s heaviest defenseman — and polished his game. Oh, and those intangibles. “He’s added the compete and the bite component to his game, and that didn’t come until November, December of last year,” Peters said.
  • Five of the seven players named captain of the Hurricanes will be in the house tonight for the opener. Co-captains Jordan Staal (he will wear the C tonight) and Justin Faulk will be on the ice for the Hurricanes. They will battle against the man they succeeded, Eric Staal — who wears an A for the Wild. Rod Brind’Amour, captain twice removed, will be on the Carolina bench, and GM Ron Francis will be watching his team from on high. Kevin Dineen, the team’s first ever captain in N.C., is an assistant with the Blackhawks. No word on whether Keith Primeau will make an appearance.
  • Staal, the new captain, had standard advice for the rookies. “Just enjoy it. I think it’s definitely, I’m sure, a dream come true for a lot of the guys. To be able to step on the ice in the NHL is an accomplishment in itself. Just go out and enjoy it and have fun.”
  • Peters said Staal won’t carry as much of a defensive burden tonight, thanks to the addition of Marcus Kruger. “You’ll see him play against both (Eric) Staal and Koivu tonight, and hopefully that frees up some of our other lines to get some O zone starts,” Peters said of Kruger, who will line up with Joakim Nordstrom and Brock McGinn. You can expect that a lot this season, I’m guessing.
  • The Wild’s Chris Stewart — brother of former Hurricanes forward Anthony Stewart — is playing his 600th NHL game tonight. He had a goal and an assist on the fourth line Thursday in Detroit, but will probably get more minutes in the top nine with Parise and Granlund out.
  • Minnesota starts with five of six on the road. The Hurricanes have usually started their season that way thanks to the N.C. State Fair being around the corner, but this year they get two home games before hitting the road. And even that trip isn’t so bad: four games in eight days before they close out October with three of four at PNC. In all, Carolina plays half of its 10 games in the opening month in Raleigh.