Carolina Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal Jersey said there’s only one way to approach a 56-game NHL regular season.
“Find a way to get hot early and continue to stay hot,” Staal said Monday during a media call.
The NHL announced Sunday the 2020-21 season would crank up Jan. 13, 2021 and begin training camps Jan. 3. Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said that will mean about eight practices, no exhibition games, then jump into the fire and go at it.
“It’s play for real,” he said. “You don’t tip-toe in.”
For the Canes, it will be much like July, when the NHL began its “Return to Play” postseason format during the pandemic and the 24 teams involved more or less rushed through a training camp. Or 2013, when the NHL lockout ended in January and teams had little time to prepare for a 48-game season and sprint to the finish.
“With a shortened season every game will be that much more heightened,” Staal said. “Everyone will need to be prepared right away and our group has got to jell quickly.”
And without fans to urge them on. The Canes said Monday that after consulting with local health officials, there would be no fans allowed at PNC Arena for the start of the season but noted the “hope” was the policy could change during the season.
The Canes did that in July. There were no coronavirus issues, the camp was productive and the Canes won their first three games, sweeping the New York Rangers, in a playoff qualifier once in the Toronto bubble.
“We can’t have a bad start. It’s too hard and not a long runway to catch up,” Brind’Amour said.
Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour watches his team play the Dallas Stars with left wing Erik Haula (56) center Ryan Dzingel Jersey (18) and right wing Nino Niederreiter Jersey (21) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Dallas, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Michael Ainsworth AP
Brind’Amour said 25 players are in Raleigh going through informal workouts at the team’s new practice facility at the Wake Competition Center. They’re eager, he said, to get going.
No one is bemoaning the Canes’ divisional placement in the NHL’s new alignment for the 2020-21 season. While the East Division looks a lot like the Metropolitan of years past, the Canes have been put in the Central Division for its 56 games.
Not that it looks a lot easier in the Central. Tampa Bay won the 2020 Stanley Cup. The Dallas Stars lost in the final. But the only Metro holdover is Columbus, and the rest — Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, Florida — will make for a different look, feel and challenge.
There’s no Alex Ovechkin one-timers to fear, no trips to Madison Square Garden, no Canadians teams on the schedule. But a lot of Lightning.
“Most of the teams we haven’t played a ton,” Staal said. “It’s obviously weird we’re going to play those teams the whole year, which maybe will cause some new rivalries.”
Count on that. Play a team eight times in 56 games and some fierce rivalries can quickly be hatched.
The top four teams in each division will advance to the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the first two rounds will be among divisional teams. As Brind’Amour put it, that’s a lot of “banging heads” for the players.
“When you’ve got to do it over and over and over, that’s where the rivalries really get cooked up,” he said. “It might be a breath of fresh air for our guys to kind of create a little more rivalry with other teams. But tat the end of the day, they just want to play. It doesn’t matter. Play anybody.”
Another different look this season? Canes president and general manager Don Waddell said he anticipates having advertising decals on the team’s helmets — but not the jerseys — for the first time as NHL teams look to recoup what will be substantial financial losses.
CANES SEEKING THIRD STRAIGHT PLAYOFF BERTH
The Canes, seeking a third straight playoff appearance, will enter the new season with last year’s team all but intact. Former captain Justin Williams Jersey has retired but forward Jesper Fast Jersey was signed as a free agent. The turnover was slight.
It’s also a team, Brind’Amour said, that won’t be lacking for motivation. After beating the Rangers in August, the Canes were bounced out of the playoffs for the second straight year by the Boston Bruins. That stung, again.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted it to end,” Brind’Amour said. “I think that’s the fuel here, the fire. We don’t want to end like that.
“That’s the great thing about having that same group back. They suffered. They went through that together and we want better things. I think that’s what you’re going to see out of these guys.”