RALEIGH, N.C. — Defenseman Brett Pesce and the Carolina Hurricanes zipped up and down the ice again, less than four months after wrapping up last season way later than usual.
For a team that suffered through plenty of long summers, they can get used to these quick turnarounds.
The Hurricanes opened preseason camp Friday looking to build off the momentum they generated during last season’s run to the Eastern Conference final – their first playoff appearance since 2009.
All those years of missing the postseason meant plenty of Aprils and Mays away from the rink. But of course, they’re happy to trade that extra recovery time for deep playoff runs.
”You play the game not to have long summers, right?” Pesce asked.
The Hurricanes are hoping a few changes lead to even better results.
”We’ve got to find those eight extra wins,” second-year coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
Carolina, one of the NHL’s hottest teams during the second half of last season, upset Washington in a seven-game series and swept the New York Islanders in the second round before the Hurricanes themselves were swept by Boston in the conference final series.
”It was a good experience for all of us to get the playoff run and to get close to doing something special,” forward Teuvo Teravainen said. ”I like this team a lot, so I feel like even with a shorter summer, the guys are pretty young – a lot of young players who have taken care of their bodies and are ready for this year.”
Sebastian Aho was here – and the 22-year-old forward probably will be here for a while after the Hurricanes matched the $42 million offer sheet extended to him by Montreal. So was veteran defenseman Jake Gardiner, who last week signed with Carolina for four years after spending much of the summer looking for a deal.
”Another great piece to our club,” Brind’Amour said. ”The sooner he can feel comfortable, then he’s going to be at his best.”
Defenseman Justin Faulk was there, too, once again as the subject of trade speculation brought about by the acquisition of Gardiner and the salary cap concerns it created. Faulk said his preference is to stay with the Hurricanes.
”It happens. I’m not the first person in the league to see their name’s thrown out there,” Faulk said. ”I’m still here and ready to work and show up and do my thing.”
The most noticeable absence: Justin Williams. The captain of last year’s group drug out his decision for this season into September before deciding to “step away” from the sport to start the year, leaving the door open to a possible return eventually. The move could leave a leadership void in a still-young dressing room.
While players and coaches have insisted they’re proceeding as though Williams won’t be back, reminders of him remain at PNC Arena: A larger-than-life photo of Williams remains affixed to the glass outside one entrance.
”I’m sure he’s enjoying himself,” Brind’Amour said with a smile, ”and happy not to have to grind it out right now.”