Carolina and the Wild are playing games on back-to-back days in Helsinki to start the season as part of the 2010 NHL Premiere series The league is staging games in three European cities at the start of the season; San Jose and Columbus will play games on Friday and Saturday in Stockholm, Sweden, while Phoenix and Boston will battle Sunday and Monday in Prague, Czech Republic.
Neither the Hurricanes nor the Wild made the playoffs last year and both clubs will be trying to get off to better starts this season in Europe.
Carolina begins a new era of sorts today as longtime captain Rod Brind'Amour announced his retirement at the close of last season. Brind'Amour already had relinquished his captaincy to Eric Staal midway through last season and this is clearly Staal's club now. Veteran winger Ray Whitney is no longer with the club either as he signed with the Phoenix Coyotes in the offseason.
Outside of Staal, the Hurricanes are counting on a few other veterans to deliver on offense, including Jussi Jokinen -- Carolina's surprise offensive sensation from last year. Jokinen -- one of three Finnish players on the 'Canes roster -- notched 30 goals in 81 games for Carolina, destroying his previous personal best of 17 markers in a season.
Carolina's other Finns are defenseman Joni Pitkanen and forward Tuomo Ruutu.
The Hurricanes No. 1 goaltender is still Cam Ward, who claimed the Conn Smythe Trophy when Carolina won the franchise's only Stanley Cup title in 2006.
"I'm comfortable with where we're at, but it's harder to gauge certain things when you're not in a normal environment," Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice told NHL.com. "As far as the on-ice goes, the focus, the communication, all of the things we said at the beginning of camp we need to be good at they're good at. I believe we're where we should be right now."
The Wild missed the playoffs for the second straight year in 2009-10 and finished 13th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference.
The biggest disappointment for the Wild in 2009-10 was undoubtedly the play of winger Martin Havlat, who didn't do a great deal to justify the six-year, $30 million contract he was given by Minnesota in the summer of '09.
Two season ago, Havlat scored a career-best 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) in 81 games for Chicago, but he managed just 18 goals and 54 points in his first year with the Wild. Havlat is Minnesota's highest-paid player outside of goaltender Niklas Backstrom and he needs to start producing more offense if the Wild have any chance at getting back to the postseason. Havlat is currently battling a groin injury, but is expected to play today.
Like Carolina, the Wild also have three Finnish players on their roster in Backstrom, team captain Mikko Koivu and forward Antti Miettinen.
On the injury front for Carolina, defenseman Joe Corvo (lower body) and forward Jiri Tlusty (knee) are questionable for today, while 'Canes winger Sergei Samsonov (sprained neck) will start the year on injured reserve.
Minnesota defenseman Marek Zidlicky (leg/groin) is doubtful for today, but forward Guillaume Latendresse (hip flexor) is probable.
The Wild and Hurricanes split a pair of meetings last year with each club winning on home ice. Minnesota is 4-2-1 with a tie in the last eight contests between the teams.