No rematch for 'Canes

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

If the Carolina Hurricanes were physically and emotionally spent, all summer and into training camp, after an exhaustive run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, they can't imagine how the Edmonton Oilers feel.

Going that far, playing that long and that hard, investing everything you have in the chase of your life ... and losing?

They shudder even thinking about it.

"It's just so hard getting to that point, playing in the Stanley Cup final, that putting in all that work and not winning must have been incredibly tough,'' winger Ray Whitney, whose return to Rexall Place tonight, with the Stanley Cup champion Hurricanes, will tear open a wound that wasn't anywhere close to healing.

"I feel for guys like Ryan Smyth. He's been in that city a long time. It has to be very disappointing for all of them. I know I'd be very disappointed if it turned out the other way,'' said Whitney.

"I can see it being very heartbreaking,'' added Conn Smythe goalie Cam Ward. "It must have been a pretty hard summer for those guys.''

ON THEIR FINGERS

It was. And though the Conference champions are meeting again for the first time since Carolina clinched its first ever title, billing it as a "rematch'' or "revenge'' game just doesn't fly.

The Canes have already won their championship, and the rings on those fingers aren't going anywhere - no matter what happens tonight. And with only eight Oilers playing tonight who were on the ice for Game 7, the Canes will barely recognize their opponents.

"Last year is over and done with and I think the Oilers would say the same,'' said Whitney. "We have our own issues to deal with and they have theirs to deal with.''

"Everything that's done is done,'' said ageless captain Rod Brind'Amour. "It's all memories.''

Some pretty good ones, if you are a Hurricane.

"It was a great series,'' grinned Rod Brind'Amour. "What I remember most was the emotion of it - great passion from both cities. I remember the national anthems in Edmonton.

"Those are the stupid things you remember afterward. The games themselves were intense and all that, but it's the stuff around it that made it pretty special.''

After the Oilers rolled over Carolina 4-0 in Game 6, it looked oh so much like those Cup rings were heading Edmonton's way. But to hear the Canes tell it now, Game 7 was never in doubt.

AT THEIR BEST

"We never saw it like that (that Edmonton had all the momentum going into Game 7),'' said Canes coach Peter Laviolette. "You guys printed it up that way, but people who followed our team through the course of the year knew that we were at our best in situations like that.''

They were in Game 7, winning 3-1 and putting a cruel and sudden end to Edmonton's fairy tale march.

"Game 6 was more of a wake up call,'' said Ward. "If anything it just made us hungrier for Game 7 after being embarrassed like that. We came out on the first shift and dictated the pace of the game and played our brand of hockey and fed off the atmosphere in Raleigh.

"It'll be fun going back in there. It seems like an awful long time ago,'' said Laviolette, whose club had a busy summer and difficult fall since hoisting the Cup. We've been through a lot this year ... those are the things that are first and foremost in our minds right now.

"But it will be fun to go back.''

Once more for old time's sake.

"It won't be the same atmosphere," said Ward. "It would be pretty tough to top that, but it'll be a sold-out building and the crowd will be excited."


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