State Fair Road Trip Always A Test For Hurricanes

Brandon Sutter, right, who scored two goals in the season opener against the Wild, and the Hurricanes will play five more road games before finally having their 2010-11 RBC Center debut. (Photo by LTD)

Heading into the season, the Carolina Hurricanes spoke of their road trip to Russia and Finland as an opportunity for some early season bonding. With four points in their pocket courtesy a sweep of the Minnesota Wild to open the season, they now embark on their annual road trip that coincides with the North Carolina State Fair, which is held just across the street from the RBC Center.

For the past four seasons, the Hurricanes have had road trips of at least four games that overlapped with the fair. The team hasn't yet come back with more wins than losses. Here's a look at the past four road trips and how this year's five-game excursion looks.

2006-07: The Canes were still riding high after their 2006 Stanley Cup, but had dropped their first two games of the year at home (in a shootout to Buffalo and a 4-0 shutout loss to New Jersey). They then faced a seven-game trip that threatened to put the team behind the eight ball in their efforts to defend their title. While the results weren't catastrophic (seven of a possible 14 points), three of the four losses (5-2 to Washington, 6-3 to Florida, 4-3 OT to the Islanders) came against teams that did not make the postseason that year. The other loss was a 5-4 defeat in Buffalo. The team did fare well against eventual playoff teams, defeating Atlanta (4-3), Pittsburgh (5-1) and Tampa Bay (5-1). After effects: The Canes won three of their next four (two each at home and on the road) and were 6-3-1 in the 10 games after the trip.

2007-08: After dropping the first of six straight on the road, a 2-0 shutout to Washington, Carolina bounced back with three straight wins over Toronto (7-1), Ottawa (5-3) and Montreal (3-1) before falling to the Pittsburgh (4-3 SO) and Philadelphia (3-2 OT). The team earned a point in five of the six for eight of a possible 12 points, but still managed to win just half of the games (3-1-2). But the fact that all but Washington were playoff teams that year marks this trip as a success. After effects: The Hurricanes had three straight at the RBC Center after the trip, winning two of them, and went on to win 7 of 10.

2008-09: The Canes kicked this trip off on the West Coast, dropping an overtime game in Los Angeles (4-3 OT) before beating the Ducks, 3-1, in Anaheim. The remainder of the six-game trip followed the same pattern, with Carolina losing in Pittsburgh (4-1), winning against the Isles (4-3), dropping a shootout to Montreal (3-2 SO), and shutting out St. Louis (1-0). The 3-1-2 record matched the 2007-08 team's trip, earning the Canes eight of a possible 12 points. They did leave a point on the board against a lesser Kings team who would finish 26th in the NHL. After effects: Carolina split their first four games after the trip (two at home, then two on the road), and went 5-5 in the first 10 games of November.

2009-10: Carolina’s 2009 road trip came near the beginning of their abysmal 14-game losing streak, giving the Hurricanes losses Nos. 2 through 5 in what turned into a season-defining — and crippling — stretch. The trip opened with a shutout by New Jersey (2-0) and shootout loss to the Islanders (4-3 SO). The Western Conference portion of the trip resulted in two losses, a 5-4 defeat to the Avalanche and a 3-2 overtime loss at Minnesota. Two of the teams were playoff teams (Devils and Avs), and the two points in four games set the tone for a terrible losing streak. After effects: Carolina lost their next seven outright, then lost one more in overtime before finally breaking through Nov. 15 against Minnesota, a 5-4 shootout win. Along with the win, the Canes netted seven points in four games, but the hole they had dug (2-12-4) by the time the streak ended was insurmountable.

2010-11: The new-look Hurricanes already have as many wins (two) as they had through 18 games last season, so it's safe to say things won't go as badly for them as it did in 2009-10. Still, the trip is a brutal one (four of the five teams are within driving distance of the Pacific Ocean) and comes after the team has already been halfway across the world in Russia and Finland. Here's a closer look at the five opponents:

Oct. 14 at Ottawa: The Senators lost their third straight Monday, falling to Washington in overtime, 3-2, for their first point of the season. They've managed just four goals in the three games while allowing 10, and Pascal Leclaire — who got the loss in all three games — has been solid but unable to will the team to a win. Carolina is the Sens’ next game.

Oct. 17 at Vancouver: The Canucks are one of the Stanley Cup favorites heading into 2010-11. Roberto Luongo has been stellar in the first two games, allowing just two goals, but Vancouver is still 1-0-1 to start the year. The Sedin brothers are already piling up points, each registering three in the first two games. The Canucks face the Ducks and Kings on the road before returning home to face Carolina.

Oct. 19 at San Jose: Regular season juggernaut San Jose will host the Canes in the front end of back-to-back California road games for Carolina. The Sharks, like Vancouver, are 1-0-1 after two games, led by Joe Thornton's two goals and Ryane Clowe's three assists in a split in Sweden against Columbus. Chicago Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi won his first start in San Jose, while fellow newcomer Antero Niittymaki dropped his first outing in overtime to the Blue Jackets. The Sharks host Atlanta Saturday before playing the Hurricanes at home.

Oct. 20 at Los Angeles: The up-and-coming Kings get Carolina on their third game in four nights. Los Angeles opened their season with a win and a loss, but managed just three goals in those two games. Like San Jose, their goaltending situation is up in the air, with returning starter Jonathan Quick winning the opener and top prospect Jonathan Bernier losing his first game of the year. Carolina is the final game of an upcoming three-game home stand for L.A., who plays Atlanta tonight and Vancouver on Friday. After four days of rest, they get Carolina a week from Wednesday.

Oct. 23 at Phoenix: New Coyote Ray Whitney will face his old team in the road trip finale for Carolina. Phoenix opened their season in Prague, Czech Republic, with a split against the Bruins. Radim Vrbata, another ex-Hurricane, scored twice in the season-opener, and 2009-10 Vezina Trophy finalist Ilya Bryzgalov won the opener but was outdueled by Boston backup Tim Thomas in a shutout loss in game two. The Coyotes have three games before hosting Carolina, playing at home against Detroit, on the road vs. the Ducks, and then back home to host Los Angeles.

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