Canes have new division rivals but title run remains the mission

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- COVID-19 will make for an entirely different NHL season this year. Starting next week, the Carolina Hurricanes have a new division to tackle and seven new divisional rivals to get very acquainted with during the next several months. One thing that hasn't changed? Their Stanley Cup aspirations.

"Going through a couple years of it, I think there's probably more belief now than maybe there was early. Why are we doing this if we're not trying to win it. It's all or nothing," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said.

Since taking over the team, that's been Brind'Amour's message, and it resonates even more now because there's a genuine belief inside the team that they've got the horses to actually pull it off.

"I think we've proven in the past few years that we're a threat to any team. Again, we're only getting better and you know our young studs are getting older and more mature and they're only going to improve," said defenseman Brett Pesce, who's now back healthy after shoulder surgery shortened his 2020 season.

One of the factors working in their favor - besides talent and youth of course - is roster continuity. Everyone knows their roles, something that's even more important with this shortened ramp-up to the regular season.

"We want to sharpen the knife for sure. I mean we want to make sure we're getting better at what we're doing, but I didn't think we have to change a bunch of stuff," Brind'Amour said Thursday.

There is one notable new face: Jesper Fast adds forward depth. He was swept by the Canes while a member of the New York Rangers last year and came away suitably impressed.

"Even the first day you feel coming in here like there's so much competitors around here like everyone is having fun and competing and, yeah, I think you can see why they are where they are and what they've done the last couple years." Fast said.

With just 56 games in the regular season, a fast start is necessary. The Canes seem equipped, having gone 9-0-1 in their first five games of the past two years. Jaccob Slavin thinks they can again be early season jackrabbits.

"If we can get off to a good start and get the momentum going right away, it's going to be huge for this team," Slavin said, "and we can't have any lapses."
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