Injuries, losses piling up for 'Canes

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- With all due lack of respect to their opponent tonight, the Carolina Hurricanes wake up this morning as the worst team in the NHL.

From the Eastern Conference final to the bottom of the standings in five short months, the 'Canes face the Maple Leafs at the RBC Center, rocked and woozy from a horrid 10-game losing streak.

"We just have to keep working on what's not working," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said following the team's morning practice yesterday. "When you have a problem, you can complain or you can try to fix it.

"Having this start, coming off where we were, in the final four .... that's where it's unacceptable."

How bad is it? Carolina is at the bottom of the standings (tied with the Leafs at seven points, but having played one more game.) And Maurice is presiding over a team that has the fewest goals in the league (28) and the most allowed (53). In their past three games, the 'Canes have been outscored 14-2.

"The numbers tell you a lack of offence and a lack of defence," Maurice said in the deadpan delivery he often deployed as coach of the Leafs. "I'd suggest that, in any sport, that might be a problem."

But that's not the end. For tonight's battle for the basement, the Hurricanes will be without their top three scorers from a year ago.

Eric Staal is out for at least two weeks after suffering an upper body injury. This after a groin injury he sustained around the Canadian Olympic orientation camp slowed his start to the season.

On Tuesday, Ray Whitney and Tuomo Ruutu also were hurt and are at best day-to-day. That's more than 200 points from 2008-09. It's so bad that Maurice has no idea what line configurations he will use against the Leafs.

Such starts often bring talks of firing the coach, something Rutherford already has done once with Maurice. But the GM was too impressed with how he turned around the team after replacing Peter Laviolette 13 months ago.

"It's not even an issue," Rutherford said. "If I change the coach, it's a long ways away because you don't go from the job (Maurice) did last year and, after a couple of months or even half a season, say it doesn't work."

Rutherford told his players yesterday not to panic, but to set Christmas as a goal to work their way back to .500 and then launch a strong late run similar to last season's effort.

"It's just like when somebody is really sick, they don't get better the next day after you have an operation," Rutherford said. "We'll gradually get out of it."

To that end, the Hurricanes yesterday summoned 20-year-old centre Zach Boychuk -- their first-round pick in 2008 -- from Albany of the AHL. Boychuk, who played in two games for the 'Canes last season, had four goals and five assists for Albany.

"We're basically the same team that did what it did last season," said 'Canes captain Rod Brind'Amour.

"It would be nice if it was just one thing and we can try and fix that.

"But it seems to be a little bit of everything."

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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