Found December 01, 2011 on Fox Sports Carolinas:
Raleigh, NC --- One of the reasons the Carolina Hurricanes made a coaching change earlier this week was to lighten the mood in the team's locker room by taking some pressure off of the players. In addition, new coach Kirk Muller's message was for the team to have fun. But losing isn't fun. And even with Paul Maurice gone and Muller calling the shots, the results haven't changed. Carolina lost again Thursday night, this time 5-3 to the New York Rangers at the RBC Center. Losing to the Rangers is certainly forgivable. They are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and entered as perhaps the hottest team in the NHL. But a loss is a loss, and Muller and the Hurricanes need a victory in a bad way. But they also appear to realize the reality they are facing. "We have to keep chipping away at it," Jeff Skinner said. "It's not going to change overnight." The Hurricanes are now 0-2 under Muller with the other loss coming against Southeast Division-leading Florida. But there's not much time for Muller to settle into the job because the overall stretch for Carolina now reads 14 losses in the last 19 contests with the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins coming to town Saturday night. The body language at times told quite a revealing story Thursday. The Canes didn't always present themselves as a team intent surging past the Rangers. They certainly had some positive moments, like scoring 35 seconds into the contest and Skinner's 11th goal of the season just before the end of the opening period that gave the home team a 2-1 advantage. But there were plenty of bad minutes, too, stretches that usually aren't associated with winning. And in the midst of a second-period funk, the game started getting away from the Hurricanes. New York scored three goals in five minutes to take a 4-2 lead. Just like that, a lead became a seemingly impossible deficit to overcome. Carolina closed to within a goal, but the Rangers responded to essentially seal the deal yet again. But there's a new voice in the locker room and a few roster changes have come recently, as well. While the Canes are 27 games into the season, they are just beginning a new era. Are they viewing the situation as basically starting over? "I hope so, we've lost quite a few games," Tuomo Ruutu said. "We've got to forget the past, but at the same time try to learn from it, move on and learn from this game and learn from the past and look (into) the future." As easy as that sounds, the players are still going to feel the weight of the losing. That's why Muller has added a second message: Stay positive. He recognizes the depth of the players' struggles and that it dates well back into October. "This is a real test to the character of our group," the new coach said. "We've got young guys. If they can fight through this, if they can battle through this and there's a light at the end of the tunnel and they start growing, then they're going to be better down the road." On looking for bright spots, Muller noted Anthony Stewart sticking up for Skinner after the 19-year-old All-Star took a blow into the boards that appeared on replay as an intended hit to his head by the Rangers' Brian Boyle. Stewart threw down his gloves and squared off with Boyle. "Stewie did the right thing," Muller said. "That's what we want. We want to get these guys bonded together and jell together. Skinner is one of our top players, and top young guys, and we want these guys to be a family and protect each other, and so I thought Stewie did the right thing." Muller is looking to focus on a positive every day. If it's one, fine. If it's two, even better. In Stewart he found one on this night. But to truly turn this thing around, he's going to need to see more than that, soon.
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