Kirk Muller

If only Hurricanes had more time …

To most, 82 regular season games is an awful lot for a sport as rugged as hockey. If you ask Kirk Muller, it’s a shame that at leastthis campaign wasn’t, say, 90-or-so games long.

When the News & Observer’s Luke DeCock asked Muller if the team would be a playoff team if only Muller had time, the coach responded “I do; I really do.” DeCock goes on to make some “What if?” insights and even compares the Muller turnaround to the renaissance the team experienced when it switched to Peter Laviolette during their Stanley Cup run.

The baffling loyalty of Peter Karmanos and Jim Rutherford to Paul Maurice has once again cost them millions of dollars — and cost this market the fun of another trip to the playoffs.

If only Maurice hadn’t been brought back after last season’s colossal failure; if only Muller had been brought in a week or two earlier, when there was still time to turn things around; if only. Alas, the damage was done, and now the Hurricanes are running out of time.

It’s easy to put too much stock into late runs, which all too often fail to carry over to the fall. The Hurricanes are hoping, as was the case in the spring of 2004 and the fall of 2005, after the season lost to the lockout, the tone set in the spring will be the tone taken in training camp.

As noted in this space many times, the similarities between the circumstances that led to winning the Stanley Cup and these circumstances — new coach, new attitude, new labor agreement — have not been lost on the players.

Carolina’s players took about a month or so to adjust to Muller’s message, but they’ve certainly been a more dangerous team once the calendar changed to 2012. The most obvious – and considering the top-heavy nature of the team, probably most important – changes come in the work of Eric Staal and Cam Ward. They went from wildly disappointing (and thus overpaid) to the kind of franchise cornerstones who seem capable of keeping the Hurricanes reasonably competitive from year-to-year.

If you ask the team, their coach and at least one of the local columnists, the Hurricanes now have a coach to be competitive – they’ll just have to wait until next season to prove it.

Goalie nods: Lack to make ‘Canes debut

Eddie Lack, Stanislav Galiev
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Carolina fans will get their first regular-season look at Eddie Lack tonight when the ‘Canes host the Panthers at PNC.

“[Lack’s] excited, and the guys are excited to play in front of him,” head coach Bill Peters said on Tuesday, per the club website. “He’s a good teammate, and they want to play hard in front of him.

“I think Eddie will be more than solid. He was good in the preseason, and I’m glad we’re able to get him in as soon as we have.”

The ‘Canes went with Cam Ward in their first two games of the season — both losses — and the results were a mixed bag. Ward was steady in the opener, stopping 23 of 25 shots, but wasn’t great against Detroit on Saturday, allowing four goals on just 19 shots.

Should he play well tonight, Lack could be in line for more starts in the near future. Carolina will embark on a seven-games-in-13-nights road swing later this week, which includes back-to-backs in Los Angeles and San Jose on Oct. 23 and 24.

For the Panthers, Al Montoya will get the start in goal tonight, giving No. 1 Roberto Luongo the evening off.


— New Jersey’s Keith Kinkaid will face Nashville for his first start of the year tonight, as Cory Schneider is away from the team following the birth of his son. Yann Danis has been called up from AHL Albany to back up. Pekka Rinne goes for the Preds.

Michael Hutchinson starts for the Jets in New York tonight. The Rangers will again roll with Henrik Lundqvist, who’ll play for the fourth time in six nights.

Carey Price is back in net for Montreal against Pittsburgh. Price watched Mike Condon get his first career NHL victory on Sunday against the Sens; for the Pens, Marc-Andre Fleury looks to get his first win of the year after opening with losses in Dallas and Arizona.

Martin Jones makes his third straight start for the Sharks, while Braden Holtby makes his second straight for the Caps.

Ben Bishop goes for the Lightning tonight in an opening-round playoff rematch against the Red Wings. Jimmy Howard goes for Detroit, after posting a shutout in the season opener.

Anders Nilsson will make his Oilers debut this evening in Dallas, taking over for Cam Talbot. For the Stars, Kari Lehtonen will get his first start of the year, and is looking to rebound from a shaky preseason.

Brian Elliott, who started the season opener, is back in goal for the Blues tonight for Calgary. The Flames will counter with Jonas Hiller, making his second straight start after Karri Ramo got the season-opener (a 5-1 home loss to Vancouver).

— No confirmations yet from either Vancouver or L.A. for tonight’s game at Staples. It’s likely that Ryan Miller will go — the Canucks have third-stringer Richard Bachman backing up with Jacob Markstrom (hamstring) injured — and it’s a good bet the Kings go with Jonathan Quick, given they’re 0-2 to start the year and need a win.

Related: Quick on save percentage: ‘Those numbers don’t mean nothing’

Here are the 10 oldest players to play a game this season

Jaromir Jagr
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This isn’t breaking news or anything. We just thought you’d like to know that three of the NHL’s 10 oldest players (who’ve played at least one game this season) are members of the Florida Panthers.

Oh, and the Panthers’ starting goalie? He’s the oldest starter in the league. (Scroll down.)

Here’s the list of skaters, topped by 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr:


Yet another veteran Panther, 36-year-old defenseman Brian Campbell, ranks 17th on the list.

Granted, the above list does not include 39-year-old Patrik Elias (who’s hurt) or 39-year-old Eric Boulton (who just re-signed with the Isles). As soon as those two play, Thornton will get pushed out of the top 10.

Now here’s the list of goalies who’ve started at least one game this season, topped by 36-year-old Roberto Luongo:


For the record, Luongo isn’t the oldest goalie under contract. That would be Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom, who’s 37.

Related: Can Florida’s old guys hang on while the young guys get better?