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Happy Holidays and Days Off!


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RALEIGH, NC. - Late Monday night the NHL announced an amendment to the current league schedule, opting to begin the mandated holiday break two days ahead of its originally planned date of December 23. The league elected to make the decision after a slew of games had been postponed over the last several days due to COVID-19 Protocols.

While the Canes were not impacted by this latest announcement game-wise - their three games that were scheduled to take place between Sunday and Thursday had already been pulled off the table for the time being - it did allow them to practice one final time Tuesday before letting the players, coaches and staff head into their couple of days off.

The holiday break is commonly looked at as a turning point in the season, no longer the start to the campaign, not quite yet the midway point. Carolina has played 29 games thus far this regular season, which equates to just over 35% of their planned 82-game schedule.

Currently standing 21-7-1 in those 29 games, accompanied by the accomplishments of having the most wins in the league, the best win percentage, best road record and fewest cumulative losses, there's plenty of joy to celebrate when it comes to what they've been able to achieve so far. Sprinkle on top the fact that they've already hit triple digits man games lost due to injury or COVID-19 Protocols, it's quite impressive.

"It's hard not to be proud of the guys and the way we play every night," Head Coach Rod Brind'Amour began. "So, regardless of where we are in the standings - and that's obviously the number one thing we look at - good record or not, I'd be proud of the way that we've played up until this point. We've had a lot of different guys in the lineup, different things happening, but at least until this point, we've played hard and we've given ourselves a chance to win every night."

Recent events have put a strong emphasis on unique roster changes coming into play, however, this unfortunately hasn't been a new trend for the club. In fact, of the 30 different players to wear a Hurricanes sweater this season, only six have played in all 29 games.

Further emphasizing that the team's success is a collective effort, not the byproduct of just a few key players, there are several important areas through the first two-plus months that have guided them to their 21 wins. At the moment the team sits tied with the Calgary Flames for the fewest goals allowed (62) league-wide and the team's penalty kill ranks second in the NHL with its 88.7% success rate.

An integral part of both facets, Frederik Andersen knows that as enjoyable as the start has been, there's more in store.

"We're among the top in our division and I think we've got to be happy about that, but we keep trying to get better. We're focused on the day-to-day, that's how we've been approaching every day and are trying to get better, no matter what's going on tomorrow," he shared. "I think that's going to help us through this time as well, having different schedules and not knowing what's too far ahead. It's good practice for what we have to do and what we have to focus on."

Currently tied for the most wins among goaltenders in the NHL, while also holding a share of the lead in goals against average (1.93) and posting a top ten save percentage (.930), the first season as a Hurricane for the 32-year-old Danish netminder is off to a fantastic start. Perhaps an even more fitting way to look at it is that Andersen also leads the league in assists by goaltender with his three. Is that important? That's up for debate, but even in the areas that aren't as imperative, the team seems to be right atop those leaderboards as well.

As followers and participants of the sport alike know, you can't win the Stanley Cup in December, but you can have played yourself out of a chance for it by then. Someone who knows that very well is another first-year member of the team, Derek Stepan. With over 100 NHL playoff games already under his built, there's no lack of understanding that the start is merely that, and the finish is a long ways away.

"After break, we have to hit the ground running. Something this group has always been able to do is to keep the foot on the gas pedal, no matter what happened the night before. We have to get right back to work and that's the mindset you have to have," Stepan said after Tuesday's skate, which only featured 12 skaters in total, furthering the point that the work continues no matter what. "The pre-break games don't really mean anything because post-break, everybody is going to ramp it up as we get into the second half and playoff time. Those games are going to be even harder to win than the first 25-30."

There will be no such work to be done over the next few days though, as the only allowed items that the team can complete are mental and physical recovery. They'll then return to work on Sunday, December 26, where COVID-19 testing will resume and practice can take place after 2 p.m. If all comes back clear then, the team's next order of business would be a meeting with the Florida Panthers at PNC Arena, Monday, December 27 at 7 p.m.

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