Cullen's Raleigh point

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

NORTH HILLS, N.C. -- Maybe this will get him going.

Maybe a return to the city where he played his last four seasons will kick-start Matt Cullen's stint as a Senator.

Because so far, he's barely been visible.

"Definitely not what I hoped for," Cullen said of his early performances in an Ottawa sweater before the charter to Raleigh. "Fortunately, it's only three games. There's a lot of hockey left before the playoffs.

"It's an adjustment. It takes a little bit to get comfortable with everything. Hopefully, (Thursday) will be the start."

Cullen is stuck on the 12 goals and 28 assists he racked up in the first 60 games of the season with the Hurricanes. In three outings with the Senators since he was acquired for a second-round pick, Cullen has no points, two shots and two penalty minutes. He's also a minus-3.

Of course, he is still trying to find playmates. He's still trying to fit in. After spending much time as a left winger alongside Mike Fisher and Alex Kovalev, Cullen will start Thursday's game at centre between Ryan Shannon and Chris Neil.

"I've played centre my whole career," he said. "I've played some wing, and I don't mind playing the wing. Wherever I am is fine. I'm more comfortable in the middle. It's more natural for me."

Coach Cory Clouston said Cullen must be more assertive.

"He's played three games ... the break-in period ... he's got to go out there now and just take control," said Clouston. "Play with more poise and confidence. He's got good speed, very good skills, the experience ... we need him to use that. We've moved him to the middle, hopefully that will help things out."

Cullen, a potential unrestricted free agent July 1, might not have been available had the Hurricanes been playing most of the season the way they are now. Carolina has won 11-of-14 games and is just eight points out of a playoff spot after a dismal start.

Still, GM Jim Rutherford was a seller at the deadline, suggesting the 'Canes are looking to next season.

"If they were healthy from Day 1," said Clouston, "they'd be in the playoff hunt."

The Senators, meanwhile, are not looking so good. If not for a rally vs. the Islanders before the break, they'd be on a three-game skid.

Goalie Pascal Leclaire is likely to start vs. the 'Canes, and they're going to need him to rediscover his early-season form. They're also going to need their two pre-deadline acquisitions -- Cullen and Andy Sutton -- to play like they're capable of playing.

One is making his Senators debut at the RBC Center. Maybe the other will finally show up, too.


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