The Hurricanes have a decision to make concerning their backup goaltending. Only part of their plan for 2011-12 went to form.
They brought in veteran goalie Brian Boucher to back up goalie Cam Ward, but Boucher suffered a practice injury a couple of months into the season and missed about three months. He played in 10 games and finished with one victory, which is far from what the team had expected.
The part that went along the anticipated path involved goalie Justin Peters, who was the 2010-11 backup to Ward. But the Hurricanes couldn't afford to stunt Peters' development by sticking him behind Ward and serving as a spectator on most nights, so he spent most of the season in the AHL with Charlotte. Peters did well during a stint with the Hurricanes, but more importantly he gained the in-net experience with Charlotte and demonstrated many good aspects.
"He did what we wanted him to do this year," general manager Jim Rutherford said of Peters. "So he gets in the mix of conversation of whether he's one of the two goalies with the Hurricanes next year."
It's a matter of rewarding Peters with the possibility that his playing time will be limited at best on the NHL level, or going another season with Boucher to keep Peters in a developmental mode.
Regardless of that decision, there's nothing to suggest that Ward's role will be altered.
--LW Jiri Tlusty spent most of the final few months of the season on the top line alongside C Eric Staal. When assessing players who made significant progress during the past season, Tlusty comes to mind quickly for general manager Jim Rutherford, who suspects others might have overlooked Tlusty's improvement. Even though Tlusty has competed in 229 NHL games, he's only 24, and that's the part that Rutherford said is particularly encouraging. He was rewarded in April with a two-year, 3.2 million contract after posting career highs in games (79), goals (17) and assists (19).
--Several of the young Hurricanes were participating in the world championships. Their coach was around for that experience, too.
Coach Kirk Muller was an assistant for Canada in the world championships, so he saw first-hand some of his players in a different environment. G Cam Ward and LW Jeff Skinner were playing for Canada. D Justin Faulk and RW Patrick Dwyer were on the U.S. team, while LW Jussi Jokinen played for Finland.
For Faulk, it's the continuation of what has been a breakthrough year. As an NHL rookie, he showed a degree of durability that gave the Hurricanes optimism. By playing in the world championships, it's another sign that Faulk has enough in the tank.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"You want to make the playoffs. When you don't make the playoffs, it doesn't sit too well. ... I've got to go into the weight room and skate and get better." -- D Justin Faulk on aiming to make improvements during his first NHL offseason after a solid rookie season.