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‘Canes trade for Jared Staal

Jared Staal

Jared Staal was aquired by the Hurricanes Thursday

The Carolina Hurricanes have acquired the rights to right-wing Jared Staal from Phoenix in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick. The move unites two brothers from one of hockey’s most talented families.

Jared is the youngest brother of the Hurricanes current captain Eric Staal. The move marks the first time that any of the Staal brothers could call themselves teammates since beginning their respective junior careers. This also means that all four Staals will now be property of the NHL’s Eastern Confrence, as Jordan plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Marc suits up for the New York Rangers.

Jared was the only Staal brother to wait until the second round of the NHL Entry Draft to hear his name called. He was drafted 49th overall by the Coyotes in 2008. Since that time, Jared has spent his time with the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League registering 12 goals and 37 assists (49 points) in 59 games in his most recent season. He has also played in 10 games with Phoenix’s American Hockey League affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, totaling an assist.

The team still has to sign the 19-year-old to an entry-level contract, but that seems inevitable as the youngest Staal is very familiar with the organization. Should Jared not sign with the Hurricanes, e would have to re-enter the draft.

According to the team’s official website, Jared will attend the Hurricanes’ conditioning camp in July and play with other top ‘Canes prospects at their annual tournament in Traverse City in September. After that, he could very well end up playing for the Charlotte Checkers next year.

The draft pick sent to Phoenix was one that originally belong to the Nashville Predators. The Hurricane s acquired that pick along with Darcy Hordichuk in 2008 for their own fifth-round pick in 2009.

RailHawks fair well in International Friendly

RailHawks striker Andriy Budnyy goes in for a sliding tackle against the Mexican Olympic Team

CARY ———– On Sunday evening under the bright lights at Wake Med Soccer Park in Cary, the Carolina RailHawks survived a shooting barrage from the Mexican Olympic Team to secure a 1-1 draw. Under tornado warning conditions, and continuous rain showers throughout the match, the RailHawks gutted out a hard-fought and much needed result in this International Friendly. The Hawks lone goal came from the boot of Andriy Budnyy in stoppage time at the end of the first half. In what was the final play of the first half, Budnyy stepped up to the ball and took advantage of the lackluster challenge by the Mexican Olympic Team and struck a powerful rip,  skidding off the slick ground, and past goalkeeper Alejandro Dautt into the far post netting. Budnyy changed his shot at the last minute when he saw teammate Matt Watson attract attention and take someone off the defensive wall, which allowed for the open far post angle. “I saw Matt Watson make a run past me and took someone off the wall which opened the back corner and had me change my shot at the last minute,” Budnyy later explained regarding the free kick goal.

The goal put the home squad in the locker room at the break with the one goal advantage, but to Carolina’s dismay, their scoring would continue, for the wrong team. In the 53rd minute, RailHawks defender and veteran captain Mark Schulte came into the box to defend a curling cross at the near post. When Schulte desperately flailed his foot out to intercept the service, his boot redirected the spinning cross and tucked it into his own net past a helpless Nic Platter in net and knotting the score at 1-1. “It’s was just a fluke, unlucky deflection. It happens and there’s nothing you can do, its part of the game,” Platter said. It was a great performance from the goalkeeper who made many key saves and provided the leadership and consistency to secure the draw. “It’s good to be on the field after preseason and training, it feels good. It’s a great feeling to come in and finally contribute a full 90 minutes in front of the fans,” he added.
With a plethora of shots being fired from all cylinders by the Mexican National Team during the second half, the momentum, seemed completely turned upside down after Schulte’s own goal gaff. It was a physical, aggressive, and at times personal affair between the two squads, with feisty tackles, and physical disputes. It was a high-energy, exhilarating atmosphere for the players and fans involved that made this affair so unique, with Mexican Olympic fans waving flags, blowing horns. At times, it felt like the game was being played in the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.
The RailHawks supporters went toe to toe with the Mexican faithful in crowd support throughout the match. The passionate group of supporters call themselves the Tri Soccer Fanatics. They cheer, drum, and sing their hearts out every game in section 204 and are a big reason why the energy is always pumping through the park.
Keylor Halbur, a 23 year old die-hard member of the Tri Soccer Fanatics, said, “It’s cool to go back and forth with the other fans. Whey they yell MEXICO, we chant RAILHAWKS right back at them. It’s fun, and it’s not an everyday thing to have opposing fans to have cheering wars against.” Halbur has been a member since this year but has been coming to the games for years. He is just one of the fifty faithful RailHawks supporters in the group. “It’s cool to be part of a group that’s knowledgeable about the game. It’s a melting pot, we have guys from all over the country.”
The RailHawks game Sunday night offered so much more than 90 minutes of competitive, gut-wrenching football. There were tons of activities and events around Wake Med Park’s grounds Sunday that brought so much more to the game than 22 athletes playing on the field.
Under a tent and attracting a crowd behind the stadium was the live music band, “Sin Reservas.” They are a well-known band from Church Hope Café in the Hispanic Ministry. Sin Reservas play at many local community events, although, none as big a spectacle as the Carolina Railhawks game versus their home countries national squad. The genre of music varies playing all different types of music such as jazz, rock, latin pop, rap and reggatone. The event means a lot to the musical group says Jose Rivas, member of the band. “Being able to get the Latin people and American people to work together and bring a message of hope and inspiration is important and was a pleasure to bring to the Railhawks,” Rivas said.
All in all, it was a frustrating match offensively again for the RailHawks, having continual trouble constructing offensive chances and attacking with numbers up on offense. After the match, Manager Martin Rennie said, “I thought defensively we did a good job shutting their attack down. The season is still very young, only two games into regular season play, but they know that improvement has to be made in the upcoming weeks if they want to contend for a USSF Division II professional league crown.
Carolina can take a lot of experience and match play away from the battle against the Mexican Olympic Team. “We worked on some things this week and I think we did better at it,” Rennie said on his squads performance. Carolina will return to league play on May 1, when they will play the Rochester Rhinos in Rochester, N.Y. in what will be their first leg league match away from home. They will return to WakeMed Soccer Park for league play on May 14, when they will face the Tampa Bay Rowdies. “We’re just starting to make progress and it’s just another step at building our team for the season,” a confident Rennie smiled.

RailHawks fall to visiting Minnesota

CARY — The Carolina RailHawks dropped their first match of their young 2010 campaign on Friday night at Wake Med Soccer Park at the hands of first-year franchise Minnesota Stars one nil.

Entering the game with budding confidence from their opening match shutout against AC St. Louis 2-0, and positive results in preseason play, Minnesota came into the game with a clean slate, and a determination to come out of Wake Med with three points to their name. That’s exactly what they did.

The first half was dominated by the Stars, comfortably handling the possession in the midfield, with crisp switches, on-cue runs down the flank, and productive shots in the RailHawks attacking third of the field.

“Last week we won the game in the first half. Tonight, we lost it in the first half. That is not even close to the standards that we have set for ourselves and a long way from where we want to be,” said a frustrated Martin Rennie, Manager of the Carolina RailHawks.

He couldn’t have been more right. The Stars pounded strikes at goalkeeper Eric Reed all night and eagerly pounced on the rebounds he conceded. Just 9 minutes in, Stars striker Warren Ukah had a powerful strike on goal which just missed the left post. Moments later in the 21st minute, midfielder Andrei Gotsmanov took brilliant right footed rip which soared wide and over the bar by a matter of inches, but beating keeper Reed again.

The RailHawks continued to play choppy tentative defense out of the back and continuously sent their clearances back to the feet of Stars players. Carolina’s luck finally ran out when they conceded their first goal of the game from the boot of Stars defender Daniel Wasson in the 37th minute. Midfielder Leilei Gao sent the curling corner kick into the box, and after a number of desperation clearances from Carolina, Wasson pounced on the rebound and powerfully struck the ball down the middle past Reed to put his visiting squad up 1 nil.

The RailHawks best chances came at the boot of midfielder Josh Gardner who received a sneaky through ball carved past two Stars defenders. After he beat his man, he took a well-driven, far post shot that skidded past the far post of Minnesota backup goalkeeper Joe Warren and resulted in another missed opportunity for the home side.

“We just started slow, it happens. We got down a goal and had to play catch up. We regrouped with a good halftime talk but we just didn’t get it done tonight,” Rennie later added.

The RailHawks come out in the second half with fire in their bellies, putting deep pressure on the Stars defenders, giving them little time to react, and showing glimpses of the team they are expected to be.

The second half soon became a shooting barrage for Carolina, a sign that maybe they can turn around their 0-29-5 record after conceding the first goal in a match.

In the 58th minute Gardner was at it again, producing a screaming strike on goal off a dangerous corner kick which the keeper was unable to hold onto, but later tracked down by a Stars defender.

Again in the 66th, a stunning powerful strike came off the laces of Daniel Paladini’s boots which just flew wide of the net. The rip beat a diving keeper but just went inches wide of the right goal post. It was one of the best chances of the game for Carolina.

Other quality goal-scoring chances came from midfielder Etienne Barbara, Matt Watson, and Matt Bobo in the latter stages of the second half, although none were able to cash in and find the equalizer.

The best chance of the game for the Railhawks came off another dangerous curling left-footed corner kick from Garder which found the head of a streaking Bobo who flailed himself in desperation at the ball, redirected the cross powerfully on goal, but goalkeeper Warren brilliantly got his fingertips on the ball to keep it off the goal line and secure the three points for his club. It was a game defining moment that shot the life out of the RailHawks players and fans as they made their last gasp at a late game desperation equalizer.

“I thought we started off the second half better than the first, but a one nil loss is always very bitter. If we learn from our mistakes from next week, we will do much better,” Paladini said after the conclusion of the match.

The RailHawks know they have much to improve on before they face the Mexican Olympic National Team next Sunday night before a projected sell out crowd. Carolina knows what they are capable of, and how they need to progress before they return to league play on May 1st at Rochester.

“We need a solid performance for 90 minutes and tonight showed us how much we need to work on. We will get better at it. I have no doubt in my mind,” said Matt Bobo.

When asked about the new orange RailHawks kits, Bobo humorously said, “Right now, I’m liking the blue kit, but it will look much better once we start winning in it.”

10 Bold Playoff Predictions

After watching one of the best nights of hockey I’ve seen in recent memory last night, I felt compelled to foolishly make predictions on one of the most unpredictable tournaments in sports. In case you missed it, the Senators, Flyers, Coyotes and Avalanche all won tight, one-goal games over the Penguins, Devils, Red Wings and Sharks respectively. Most experts have predicted last night’s losers to win their series but as I said before, the NHL Playoffs just cannot be predicted (but here’s my attempt).

10. Sidney Crosby will NOT lead the Penguins in points.

Yes you read correctly, Sid the Kid will finish second or lower in points for the Penguins. Seeing Evgeni Malkin tear up the Senator defense last night made me realize that he is the cog that keeps the Penguins’ gears turning. Crosby has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and has scored some very big goals in his career (see Vancouver Olympics) but Malkin is the man who strikes fear in the heart of opposing defencemen.

9. The San Jose Sharks will not make it past the second round.

The Sharks have a sickness of crumbling come playoff time. San Jose perennially has good regular seasons and this year was no different. The Sharks are the top seed in a competitive Western Conference and face the plucky Avalanche in the first round. If they can manage to avoid a second straight postseason first-round exit then I have a tough time believing they would have what it takes to get through another series. The Western Conference is very good this year and there are a number of teams who appear hungry for a championship. What the Sharks have in talent, they always seem to lack in hunger.

8. Neither the Red Wings nor the Penguins will be in the Cup final… again

The Red Wings struggled mightily this season and used a late run to secure the fifth seed in the West. The experience is there for the proven Red Wings but as mentioned before, the West is very good this year and I believe that age and fatigue will be the downfall. Not to say that they will be pushovers in any round of the tournament, but a certain team in Phoenix seems to be playing some very good hockey right now. The Penguins have had tough times as well during the season. Their power play was ranked near the bottom of the league at times and their goaltending has been questionable (see last night’s game against Ottawa). Plus, let’s be honest, these two teams have played a staggering 290 games apiece since the beginning of the 2007-08 season. That makes me tired just thinking about it.

7. The Cup goes to… an American team

Sorry Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa fans but it’s obvious that your team will not capture Lord Stanley this year. A Canadian team hasn’t won the Cup since the 1993. That’s a 17-year drought for the country that hockey was born in. Montreal will be lucky to win a game against the Capitals in the first round. The Canucks and Senators will be so bruised if they come out of the quarterfinals that neither of them will make much noise. There just isn’t enough depth on any of these three teams to compete with some of the teams that aren’t afraid to roll four lines throughout the game.

6. There will be at least two series that go the distance in the first round

Yes, I have a sneaky feeling that there will be some compelling match-ups in these quarterfinals. First of all, the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers have the goods to deliver on a seven-game series. Brain Boucher carried the Flyers to a win in Game 1, but I would have to think that he cannot keep that pace up for a full series. He’s a good goalie – but the guy on the other end is pretty decent too. Martin Brodeur has stolen his share of playoffs games and has three Cup rings to show for it. He won’t let his Devils be stunned like they were after their series with the Carolina Hurricanes last year. Also, the Phoenix Coyotes might just take the Detroit Red Wings to a seventh game. The Red Wings would appear to be the better team, but the Coyotes have a playoff-proven goaltender and a spunky group of guys that work well together and work for each other.

5. There will only be one sweep throughout all of the playoffs this year!

Yes, that’s right. One four game sweep this year. This group of teams seems fairly well-matched with no real favorites to steamroll the competition. The West is as competitive and balanced as ever and the East could produce any number of teams to compete for the Cup. You might ask yourself… “Who’s getting swept?” Well, I don’t want to offend anyone out there but I just don’t see Montreal winning any game against the powerful Capitals. If people thought the Caps had goaltending issues then they haven’t seen Montreal’s netminders. Carey Price was replaced by Jaroslav Halak during the season and neither goalie could produce the kind of consistent effort Habs fans were looking for. Also, the team never seem to gel as management thought it might with so many new faces on the team.

4. An unlikely goal scorer will score to end a multiple-overtime game.

With the games being as close as they have been, it seems obvious that some of them will go to overtime, and some of those will go to another overtime, and some of them will go to ANOTHER overtime. Multiple overtimes make games more and more dramatic as they go on and it seems as if big-name goal scorers never seem to be the ones to score the winners. Look for people like Craig Adams of Pittsburgh, Patrick Kaleta of Buffalo or Jannik Hansen in Vancouver to end a dramatic game at some point.

3. Jose Theodore will start every game for the Capitals

I like Semyon Varlamov just fine, but Theodore has already been named as the starter for the top-seeded Capitals and appears to be ready for the postseason. Goaltending isn’t the strongest point for the Caps and hasn’t been since Olaf Kolzig was in his prime. Fortunately for Bruce Boudreau’s team, it doesn’t need to be. The Caps have the firepower to win games on offense alone and they have proven that. Washington has no problem with winning games 6-4 instead of 3-1 because of that key word… winning.

2. The Buffalo Sabres will beat the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Finals and the Chicago Blackhawks will eliminate the Los Angeles Kings in the West.

Wow.. that was a lot of information to handle all at once. In the East, Buffalo’s goaltending will shine over the Capitals high-octane offensive attack. Ryan Miller almost led the US to a gold medal and he will carry the Sabres into the Cup Finals the same way. Alex Ovechkin and Co. will have to settle for just another step in maturity in the playoffs (first-round exit in ’08, second-round exit in ’09). The Caps have all the tools to win it all but you cannot deny the Sabres goaltending and desire to get to the Cup Finals for the first time since 1999.

In the West, the youthful Blackhawks are one year older and one year wiser. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will lead Chicago past the upstart LA Kings in what should be an exciting matchup of two fast-paced teams. Jonathan Quick is a great goaltender and he will shine in the spotlight of the playoffs. The Kings are an underestimated team will good talent such as Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Ryan Smyth, Jack Johnson and numerous others. Former sniper Justin Williams came back from injury to post 10 goals and 19 assists (29 points) in just 49 games. Chicago will have their hands full but will move on to play Buffalo for the 2010 Stanley Cup.

1. The Blackhawks will win the Stanley Cup

For the first time since 1961, the Stanley Cup will call Chicago home. The Blackhawks will defeat the Buffalo Sabres in six or seven games in what should be a very exciting Finals matchup. Ryan Miller’s magic will eventually run out and he will have to settle for second place for a second time since losing in the Olympics. He will, however, win the Conn Smythe trophy awarded to the playoffs MVP. The talent of the Blackhawks will come through and they will skate around competition until the clock clicks down to zero and they call themselves champions.

Then again… I could be wrong

Eric Staal Goal

Eric Staal scores a goal on Detriot's Chris Osgood during the 2008 All-StarGame

Promises eventually do come true.

The Carolina Hurricanes and National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Thursday that the RBC Center will be the host site for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game. The announcement brings forth the realization of a promise by Bettman years ago that the ‘Canes would indeed host the annual event.

In 2004 the team hosted the NHL Entry Draft and drew a crowd that was said to be the largest opening-day audience in over a decade. The event sparked interest in the area and, combined with the recent success of the team, made North Carolina’scapital city an appealing choice to host the NHL’s finest players.

The Hurricanes appeared to be doomed to a lingering wait for eligibility to host an All-Star game, but with the financial struggles suffered by the Phoenix Coyotes organization and the possibility of relocation, a door opened for Raleigh to step in to.

The announcement came a mere hour into the Caniac Cookout, a lawn party for the Hurricanes fans at the RBC Center in honor of the last home game of the season, marking a very special day for the organization.

While the ‘Canes will not be participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this post-season, the realization of hockey on a national scale in Raleigh will no doubt put a grin on even some of the most disheartened fans.

Railhawks earn 1-1 draw with Impact

Goalkeeper Matt Reed came out to make a sliding save, the one of many he was forced to make on Saturday night.

It’s amazing the difference a day can make. Just 24 hours earlier, the Carolina Railhawks took a two nil defeat to the University of North Carolina Men’s Soccer team in Southern Pines in underachieving fashion. Saturday night was a completely different story.

The Railhawks came out alive and rejuvenated after a lackluster performance Friday night and earned a 1-1 draw against the defending USL First Division champion Montreal Impact. It was a back-and-forth hard fought effort against a well-respected squad for the Railhawks tonight who were tested from the opening whistle. I think its safe to say they passed this preseason test. “I think that was a very good preseason match against a team that is a month ahead of us in preseason matches,” Head Coach of the Railhawks Martin Rennie said after the match. “We passed the ball well and played very competitively.”

The first half action was mostly possession in the midfield with sporadic offensive attacking chances on goal but none really troubling either goalkeeper. The action started in the 13th minute  when Railhawks midfielder Daniel Paladini had a close chance to finish in front of goal which sailed over the cross bar. The Impact got in on the offensive side when forward Rocco Placentino had a powerful free kick sail over goal in the 20th minute. Later in the 40th, Impact midfielder Tony Donatelli ripped a vicious half-volley on goal but to his dismay went just wide of Hawks goalkeeper Eric Reed.

After a scoreless first half ended with little offensive rumble and choppy mistake-prone passing, the second half proved quite the contrary. In the 52 minute, the best chance of the game thus far came at the boot of Paladini again. Striker Joseph Ngwenya made a darting run down the left flank and played a brilliant soaring ball across the goal mouth towards Paladini which resulted in an off-balance shank wide.

With the game becoming feisty, three yellow cards being booked, and tempers flaring on both sides, the games took its first major turn in the 67th minute when the Railhawks were awarded a penalty kick. Impact defender Simon Gatti pulled the shirt of Railhawks midfielder Amir Lowry which warranted a foul. The call resulted in a trip to the penalty spot for defender Kapono Low who slotted one to the right corner past the keeper and put the home squad up one nil.

Although, 15 minutes later, referee Saeed Mohamed was forced to point to the penalty spot again, this time eighty yards down field in favor of the Impact. Carolina defender Josh Gardner illegally slid from behind Impact substitute Peter Byers. Moments later defender Nevio Pizzolitto silenced the home crowd and celebrated in jubilation as he put his side dead locked  at 1-1 in the 82 minute.

A last gasp effort by the Impact in the 92 minute of stoppage time came when defender Hicham Abou bou scorched a header in on goal but was miraculously saved on the goal line by the body of Gardner and saved the day for Carolina.

“There was a great squad out there in front of me tonight. We waited all preseason to come together as tonight, we worked really well as a cohesive unit,” goalkeeper and MVP of the match Eric Reed said. “We like where we are in preseason right now but we know we have a long season ahead of us. We have more to grow if we want to win a championship this season.”

With the season opening in two weeks and two final matches remaining in preseason action, the Railhawks have plenty of time to still iron out any chinks in their armor before the beginning of their 2010 campaign in the NASL (National American Soccer League). Saturday was an important stepping stone in the long and arduous process of a professional soccer season. With a close 2-1 loss against Major League Soccer powerhouse New England Revolution, and 1-1 draw against defending champion Montreal Impact, the Carolina Railhawks have proven they can play with anyone. Both results are encouraging signs of a successful upcoming season.

Injuries continue to mount against ‘Canes

It seems as if nothing else could go wrong this season.

Actually, that probably shouldn’t be said… hockey players are very superstitious.

Adding to the Hurricanes recent string of unfortunate luck, Tuomo Ruutu will undergo a season-ending surgery Thursday for an injury that has been nagging him for most of the season’s second half.

Despite Ruutu’s effectiveness in recent weeks, he has not been at 100% since leaving a game against the Colorado Avalanche back on January 8. He returned after missing 15 games but apparently never fully healed.

His injury comes at a time in which fan favorites Tim Gleason and Cam Ward, and newcomer Alex Picard are all down with injuries. Out of the three only Ward seems to have a chance to play in the team’s final nine games. Also, the injury comes during a season which has seen only one Hurricanes player, Tom Kostopoulos, appear in all 73 games so far. Even Eric Staal missed considerable time this season, breaking his streak of 349 consecutive games played.

The ‘Canes will return to action Thursday night when they face the Eastern-Confrence leading Washington Capitals in a Southeast Division showdown. It is unclear of who will be called up to replace Ruutu in the Hurricanes lineup but it is assumed to be Drayson Bowman, Jerome Samson, or Oskar Osala.

Youth serves Canes

As the Carolina Hurricanes continue to make a push toward the Stanley Cup playoffs this season, one thing is clearly noticeable. The rookies and other “young guns” for this team continue to shine among the brightest of NHL stars.

Let’s take a look on a player by player basis:

1. Justin Peters – Peters has not done much of anything at the NHL level this year.. unless you consider that he won in his first NHL game against Johnathan Tavares and the Islanders, ousted Martin Brodeur and the Devils, won in the arena he grew up around in Toronto, beat the best team in the league and out dueled both goaltenders for the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Doesn’t seem like a bad resume for the Hurricanes second-round draft pick in the 2004 Entry Draft. Peters is getting his first shot in the NHL this season due to Cam Ward’s back injury and the release on Michael Leighton on waivers.

Peters has posted a 6-2-0 record so far and his .916 save percentage ranks him ahead of the likes of Olympians Brodeur, Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick his consistent play has given the Canes a solid one-two punch in the net despite having their franchise goalie on the injured reserve list.

2. Brett Carson – The 24 year-old defenseman has been one of the most dependable blueliners for the Hurricanes this season. Since his December 7th call up to the Canes, Carson has been regularly used during a season in which defenseman seem to depart via trade or injury at a regular basis. He plays between 15 and 20 minutes every game including some time on the power play and the killing penalties. Carson is one of the few players on Carolina’s roster that has a plus statistic. His +4 rating ranks him tied for first with fellow youngster Zach Boychuk for first on the team and it’s easy to tell why.

His two goals this season have both been important ones as well. His first career goal happened to be the game-winner against the Ottawa Senators and his tally against the Capitals tied the game in the third period.

3. Zach Boychuk – Boychuk got a taste on the NHL last season as he had a cameo in two games for the Hurricanes registering no statistics. This season he had to be ready for a larger role. In his 20 games this year, Boychuk has registered three goals and five assists while playing limited minutes on the third and fourth lines. Boychuk has seemingly taken steps toward improving his chances of playing a full season in the big league next year as the Canes try to prepare for the future.

Boychuk has had high expectations on his shoulders ever since the Hurricanes used the 14th overall pick on him in the 2008 Entry Draft. As his duration with the Hurricanes has increased this season, Boychuk has looked more comfortable, even dominating at some points. The Hurricanes hope this is a good sign of things to come from the young 20 year-old as he progresses with his career.

4. Brandon Sutter – Some might think he shouldn’t even be on this list of “young guns.” Those same some forget that Sutter is only 21 and still has many years in front of him. During a horrid 14-game losing streak early in the season, Sutter consistently stuck out as a lone bright spot for the Canes. He has done nothing but score hard-working goals, as well as dazzling scores that leave some thinking he could be considered to be a third “franchise man.” Sutter has worked his way up to a starting spot as centerman on the second line. Impressive for a player who started the season in the AHL playing in Albany.

Sutter has scored 17 goals so far this year and is on pace to crack the 20-goal plateau in just his second season in the league. His first year was cut short due to concussion problems after a hit by the New York Islanders (and former Hurricane) Doug Weight. He struggled through 50 games last year, scoring one goal and totaling six points. This year he has come back a different man. The Valentine’s Day baby has received nothing but love and adoration from both the fan base and his teammates.

5. Jamie McBain – McBain has only played three games in the NHL this year but he is already turning heads. His consistent offensive play and responsible defensive behavior has earned him a spot on the first defensive pairing with Joni Pitkanen. In fact only Pitkanen averages more ice time per game than the young McBain, who is listed as playing 25 minutes each contest. McBain has played up to expectations so far and looks to be a bright spot for the Canes in seasons to come.

His defensive abilities are sound, but his offensive instincts are what everyone seems to be talking about, and for good reason. His defensive hustle and booming slapshot created the opportunity for Ray Whitney to beat the Capitals in overtime and his presence of mind and that same slapshot gave the Canes a thrilling OT win over the Penguins with less than one second remaining in the contest.

These players are just five of the highlights of a young group of extremely talented players that give the Hurricanes reason to be optimistic looking forward. That group could possibly be expanded to give players like Jerome Samson, Oskar Osala, Drayson Bowman, Juri Tlusty, and recent signee Zac Dalpe. Fans also might forget that captain Eric Staal is only 25 and that players such as Bryan Rodney, Alexandre Picard, Jussi Jokinen, and Joni Pitkanen are all 26 or younger. With the young talent that the Canes have and the veteran leadership provided by Ray Whitney (37), Rod Brind’amour (39) and newcomer Brian Pothier (32) it is easy to see a promising future for the Hurricanes and the game of hockey.

Hurricanes offer change, hopes for this season

When the 3 pm trade deadline passed Wednesday afternoon, it appeared that the Hurricanes 2009-2010 team would remain relatively intact. Two hours later, the promises of a day filled with trades had come true.

There was one thing missing however.

Over the past two months, Ray Whitney’s name had surfaced in several trade rumors and his picture was featured on the NHL’s website under the trade deadline section. However, at the end of the day Ray Whitney will remain a Carolina Hurricane.

Whitney’s name was rumored with several different teams, but as the day progressed the possibility of him getting traded seem to dwindle. He was rumored to go anywhere from Boston, to Pittsburgh (nixed late Tuesday night when they acquired Alex Ponikarovsky from the Toronto Maple Leafs), and most likely to Los Angles to play for the Kings. Whitney exercised his no-trade clause for a deal to the Kings in early February and reportedly nothing came in GM Jim Rutherford Wednesday that was worth considering.

While Whitney will get ready to lace up against the Ottawa Senators Thursday night at the RBC Center, five of his teammates will not.

Early in the day Rutherford got his feet wet by sending veteran defenseman Aaron Ward to the Anaheim Ducks for goaltending prospect Justin Pogge as well as a fourth-round pick in either the 2010 or the 2011 NHL Entry Draft (it’s the Hurricanes choice of when to use it). Ward admitted to not playing well in the first part of the season, but said he felt his play had turned around when the new year came in. Pogge, 23, played in seven NHL games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008-09, and has a career NHL record of 1-4-1 with a 4.35 goals-against average. He has spent the 2009-10 season with San Antonio of the American Hockey League (AHL), posting a 12-7-3 record with a 2.57 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. In 165 career AHL games with Toronto and San Antonio, Pogge has earned a record of 83-63-14, with a 2.69 goals-against average.

Minutes later the Canes sent gritty forward Scott Walker to the Washington Capitals for a seventh round pick in the upcoming draft. While this may not seem like much for a player as proven as Walker, it makes sense as the fan favorite has dealt with numerous injuries this season. The Capitals feature proven scorers but have lacked a player as hard nosed as Walker for many years.

Then the deadline came to an end. 3 pm passed and all was quiet.

Hurricanes fans might remember last season when the deadline passed, yet the Canes dealt Justin Williams in exchange for Erik Cole in a three-team trade. As long as the paperwork is passed through to the NHL office before 3:00 the trades still count, so numerous trades get announced after the actual deadline all the time.

Around 4:15 pm rumors began to surface regarding defenseman Joe Corvo. Shortly after, Corvo was gone to the join Walker in Washington. The return for the valuable, hard-shooting player was profitable. The Canes received veteran defenseman Brian Pothier, Finnish prospect Oskar Osala, and a second round pick in 2011. Pothier, 32, has played in 41 games for the Capitals this season, totaling four goals and seven assists. His plus-12 plus/minus rating currantly ranks him first on the time in that category. Osala, 22, has scored 15 goals and earned 14 assists in 53 games this season with the American Hockey League-leading Hershey Bears. The Vaasa, Finland, native began his North American professional career last season, registering 23 goals and 14 assists (37 points) in 75 regular-season games with Hershey. He has appeared in two games with the Capitals, both coming last season.

The rumors then turned toward fellow defenseman Andrew Alberts and future unrestricted free agent Stephane Yelle. Alberts quickly went to the Vancouver Canucks for a third round draft pick and Yelle quickly followed suit. The surprising Colorado Avalanche offered prospect Cedric LaLonde-McNicoll and their sixth round pick for Yelle and Canes prospect Harrison Reed. LaLonde-McNicoll, 21, is in his first full professional season, spending most of the season with Lake Erie of the AHL. He has totaled five goals and eight assists in 45 games with the Monsters on the AHL level, and has also played four games with Charlotte of the ECHL, totaling four points (1g, 3a).

Then the day was done. Rutherford left his office having just accomplished the busiest trading day of his long career as general manager. His deals give Hurricanes fans hope for, not only the future, but for the present as well. He managed to avoid trading a pivotal piece of the team and still received four 2010 draft picks and another pick for 2011. Along with the picks the Hurricanes received three promising prospects and an NHL-ready defenseman.

While time will tell on the draft picks and prospects, one thing is for sure. The Hurricanes have good reason to hold their heads up high based on a promising future and a realistic chance to make a strong run at the playoffs this season still.

US ready for much different Canada team

The United States mens hockey team has to be prepared for a different Canadian team if they want to return home with Olympic gold.

It all begins in goal where hometown hero Roberto Luongo will attempt to stop the American attack. Martin Brodeur was shaky in allowing four goals the last time the two teams squared off. He was replaced as the starter after that game and ever since the Canadians haven’t shown much of a weakness in goal.

The Canadians have been one of the top teams ever since they lost to the US squad back on February 21st. They have beaten Germany, Russia and Slovakia throughout the elimination round of the tournament. They outscored their opponents 18-7 during that span as well.

The United States, on the other hand, earned a bye in the first round by shocking the world and landing the top seed in the tournament. They out-toughed a gritty Swiss team 2-0 and cruised past Finland 6-1 to earn a chance to win gold for their country.

Canada survived a major scare in the semifinals against the Slovaks; as the US squad scored six goals in the first period and rested their stars (including starting goalie Ryan Miller) during the rest of the game.

The day the US thumped Finland to move into the gold medal game, the Canadians built a 3-0 lead on Slovakia only to require a desperate Luongo save in the final seconds to hang on to a 3-2 win.

If it’s any sign of the quality of competition, Finland then beat Slovakia to claim the bronze medal 5-3.

The Americans have every reason in the world to be confident, but it will take more than an ego boost to take down the Canadians on their own ice.

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