One big surprise early in the NHL season has been the play of the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes, with a record of 17-8-2, are off to their best start in franchise history. The team stormed to the top of the Southeast Division going 8-2-1 in October, but have cooled with a 8-5-0 record in November and, as of December 6, had lost six of their last nine games. While the Canes have begun to chill, they have also been hit by the injury bug.
“We’ve just been hit with a lot of injuries right now. [Andrew] Ladd was there. Ladd went down. Joe Vasicek is down. We’re just trying to fill holes,” said Carolina Head Coach Peter Laviolette.
One of the more significant injuries to the team has been the loss of 2004 fourth overall pick Ladd. Last season in the WHL, the left winger scored 19 goals and 45 points in 65 games while tallying 139 penalty minutes. He led all players at the 2005 Ottawa Senators Rookie Tournament with four goals and tied for the lead in points with seven. Ladd notched 11 points in 15 AHL games before receiving the call up to Carolina on Nov. 20. The soon to be 20-year-old appeared in seven games for the Canes scoring four goals while playing on the Canes top line. But the 6’2 201-pound forward suffered a knee injury against Phoenix and had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. He is expected to miss the next six to eight weeks of the season.
The injury forced Carolina to call up right wing Chad LaRose. LaRose had a strong training camp with the Canes, scoring two goals and five points in six preseason games. The Michigan native was among the final cuts at the end of camp, but didn’t let the demotion set him back. He made an immediate impact with Carolina’s AHL affiliate, the Lowell Lock Monsters, leading the team with 14 goals and ranking second on the team with 25 points in just 23 games. His scoring prowess has him ranked 15th in scoring in the league as well.
“He’s one of the top goal scorers in the American Hockey League and he played really well at camp. When he played with some good players in training camp he did a really good job. He had points, had a lot of shots on net, a lot of opportunities. He comes up and he provides offense,” said Laviolette.
Despite achieving success at the AHL level, LaRose was nervous heading into his NHL debut game against Anaheim.
“It was good. A good experience. It took a little while to get the butterflies out, but it’s over now so it’s in the books. I thought it was good game. It was fast paced. Glad to get the win now the team is back on track so that’s good. To get back on track on the road with a W is a big win.”
Laviolette is hoping that LaRose’s knack for scoring will translate at the NHL level and has put him in a position to score. He has put LaRose on the Hurricanes top line with Eric Staal and Erik Cole. Staal leads the Canes in scoring with 20 goals and 40 points in 27 games while Cole has 6 goals and 20 points in 27 games. It is a bit unconventional to make an NHL debut on the top line, but Laviolette had a different take on the subject.
“Guys get called up and they’re goal scorers, then they should be put in positions where they can score goals,” said Laviolette.
LaRose was admittedly a little intimidated to be playing on the Canes top line with the NHL’s fifth highest point scorer, but still hoped to contribute to the team’s success.
“I’m trying to be more of an energy player. Bring some speed and bring some energy to the room,” said LaRose.
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