Already struggling on defense, ‘Canes now without Faulk (upper body)

AP

Coming into the year, optimism was high for a young Hurricanes defense that played well last year and looked to have a bright future.

But now, 11 games in, things are less rosy.

On Tuesday, Carolina announced that minutes leader and alternate captain Justin Faulk is out week-to-week with an upper-body injury suffered on Sunday against New Jersey.

News of the injury comes with the ‘Canes sitting at 3-5-3, dead last in the Metropolitan Division and 27th in the NHL in goals against (3.5 per game).

To hear Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer explain it, a big reason for that bloated GAA is the trouble Carolina’s had on defense.

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Jaccob Slavin has been good, defensive partner Brett Pesce hasn’t been far behind and the rest of the blue line has been questionable. Faulk and [Ron] Hainsey have been surprisingly erratic in their own zone, and the pairing of [Noah] Hanifin and your-name-here has been a mess.

The Hurricanes auditioned prospect Roland McKeown for that spot but decided he was better served playing a full season in the AHL, which left them with late-signing Jakub Nakladal, waiver claim Klas Dahlbeck and [Ryan] Murphy, none of whom have been up to the task.

DeCock goes on to say GM Ron Francis “gambled that the group that finished the season would be able to pick up where it left off,” and that, so far, that gamble has failed.

All this falls in the lap of head coach Bill Peters, who’s spent considerable time piecing together his blueline. Dahlbeck’s appeared in six games, Murphy three and Nakladal two, and there’s a decent chance another d-man could soon be in the mix to fill Faulk’s spot on the roster.

But replacing Faulk will be no easy task.

One of the league’s premier power play quarterbacks — he finished second among NHL d-men in PPG last year, with 12 — Faulk plays over 24 minutes a night, and in all situations.

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