Clicks and Clippings: Cullen gives us something to build on

Sept 25 Training Camp at the RBC Center. Matt Cullen "takes down" teammate Eric Staal as they practice face-offs. Thanks once more to LTD!

It's hard to get too excited about that too-close-for-comfort shoot-out win over an underwhelming opponent like the 2009-10 Tampa Bay Lightning, but let's remember that  NHL hockey plays out over a long six-month season. It seems to me that again this year, the hard-working Hurricanes will be an ever-evolving work-in-progress.

Tuesday evening, like many of you, I was relying on the call from Chuck Kaiton and the comments from CC GM Bob Harwood to fill in what wasn't obvious on the gamesheet. While Goalie Cam Ward was the headliner of the game, earning first star honors, credited with a point from his assist on the Jokinen goal, and recognized by ESPN.com as the 2nd best player of the night in the League, I'd like to offer this shout-out for the game's third star Matt Cullen, who was, from all accounts the player to be reckoned with Tuesday night. 

Although he didn't get a scoring point, Cullen's face-off wins at a very impressive 64% led the Canes centermen, and his 21:56 time-on-ice was second among the Cane's forwards, just behind Eric Staal.

But beyond these numbers, you can't ignore these glowing reviews from Tuesday's game:

Coach Paul Maurice, after the game, heaped praise on Cullen: "Y'know, when we played our best hockey last year, Matt Cullen was a big big part of that...I thought Matt in the defensive zone was almost perfect tonight. He stopped, he battled, he won battles, he really used his speed to kill the play. I thought he was just exceptional tonight."

Bob Harwood - From his live comments in the Gamethread: Cullen stole the puck from Smith and hit the post on an open net, tough break; Cullen with another nice move, he’s skating better tonight; then down the other end, beautiful move by Cullen, sets up LaRose and Smith makes a beauty; Cullen just made a sweet pass, but A Ward could not beat Smith;  and in his post-game wrap-up: Matt Cullen had the best game he's had so far this season.  He generated many chances, played solid defense, and had more jump and purpose than he had in previous games.

And last - check out the post-game video via WRAL.com with Cullen himself decribing the Hurricane's performance. "For sure, something to build on". I'm thinking from his words and tone that this is not the last stand-out game for Cullen this season, as he draws inspiration from that timeless sports mantra:  "Contract year".

Other news highlights from the Hurricanes and around the NHL below:

Remaining briefly on the topic of Tuesday's game, here is a video assembled by Canes Vision. In particular you can see that controversial headlock that TB goalie Mike Smith took on veteran Yelle at the 1:30 mark, which earned the (6'-4", 219 lb) 27-year-old netminder a stern talking-to by the so-called officials.

Footnote to that video from Canesvision, the opening promotional 15 seconds of super-slow-mo videography is part of the Hurricanes' new TV ad campaign. Cool stuff.

Just for giggles, as a perfect answer to the old saw: "Can any team, beat any other team on any given night?" the Phoenix Coyotes went into the Igloo in Pittsburgh and shut out the Penguins 3-0 last night. The always pithy Hooks Orpik at Pensburgh summed up his hometeam's effort this way: Uninterested.  Half-hearted.  Ugly.  Lacksidasical.  Piss-poor.  Uninspired.  Bland.  Disappointing.  Vomit-inducing. I feel your pain, buddy. The Sunbelt-doormat Coyotes are now at 2-0 on the year.  Good for them!! Yet, I have to wonder, is it possible that all the 'yotes really needed all these years was a coaching change? They move on to Buffalo tonight, before heading home for their Home Opener on Saturday, reportedly in Phoenix.

 

Next up for the Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers arrive in Raleigh today, in preparation for Friday night's game at the RBC. This is the first game of the season stateside for Florida, having split their two games against the Blackhawks in Helsinki last weekend. Check out this piece Working On The Details - Florida Panthers -  for more insight.

[This just in from Paul Branecky on the status of Pitkanen's knee:  Pitkanen "Possible" for Friday - Carolina Hurricanes - Blog I've heard of getting cold feet, but....]

Also from Florida, the ECHL franchise The Everblades is affiliated with both the Panthers and the Hurricanes (undrafted Chad LaRose served some time there many moons ago). Here's the SBN blogger encouraging its readers to take in a game: Unemployed? Need some hockey? The Everblades are there for you - Litter Box Cats He claims this beats the food court at Naples Mall.

Last item from Florida, and to further bring home the argument that hockey is indeed sexy, here's a provocative franchise-approved blog from one of their ice girls, Yendi: Rookie Rant: The Bahamas - Hockeymom found this tidbit and offers it to you as the most-scintillating quote of the day "The girls were getting their sexy on as we did shots for the 2010 Bova Panthers Ice Dancers Calendar. You are probably thinking "wow what a great getaway," right? Actually, the entire four days were action packed with 16 hour work days, hair and makeup, wardrobe malfunctions (we were wearing bikinis, so you can imagine)."  Why don't y'all take a moment and do just that, fellas. 

Hockey Fights Cancer Game Set for Friday - Carolina Hurricanes - The Hurricanes Trainer Pete Friesen will donate the proceeds from his Annual 5K run in September, while cancer-survivor and Hockey-wife extraordinaire Julie Walker will be sounding the siren with Scott and their 2 children. Also, Eric Staal is renting a suite for some young kids who each have their own brave stories I'm sure, as part of Eric's Entourage. To help the cause, check out the official coaches' ties.

Tonight's NHL schedule offers up 3 great rivalries. None of which is on Versus. "Pittsburgh at Philadelphia,  Rangers at Washington, Chicago at Detroit all are rematches of playoff series from last season."

Last, I'll put up a couple more items (because I'm still not over Saturday's thugfest in Boston.)

As the requisite counter balance to the Florida Ice Girls, I'll share this image that I mentioned in last Friday's post. From ESPN the Magazine's Bodies We Want feature. So, without further ado, I present Zdeno Chara, as you've never seen him before (and likely never hope to again):

 Zdeno Chara from the ESPN Body Issue on Twitpic

 via Twitter

Do with this as you will. Puck Daddy has his own take as well.

Another of hockeymom's favorite Boston Goons  Bruins, was in the news yesterday as well. Milan Lucic of Boston Bruins preferred to stay in Boston instead of test free agent market - ESPN Boston. Birds of a feather.....

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