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With outside expectations low, Hurricanes begin camp with goal of returning to playoffs


RALEIGH, North Carolina — The Carolina Hurricanes are back at work and one of their goals is to prove numerous outsiders wrong.

Few outside the organization expect them to snap their long playoff drought this year.

The Hurricanes haven't made the postseason since 2009 — no Eastern Conference team has gone longer without getting there — but they began training camp Friday hoping to exceed those modest external expectations.

Forward Jeff Skinner said "you come into the season, you're not expecting not to make the playoffs."

Skinner said, "It starts here in camp, trying to get better today for the first day" and building on that before "taking that into the season."

Long offseasons have become the norm lately for the Hurricanes, who won their only Stanley Cup 10 years ago but have reached the postseason just once since then.

Jordan Staal said it was "a long summer — unfortunately" and forward Elias Lindholm added that during the days leading up to camp, "You get kind of bored and you just want to get things started. So, it's started."

The Hurricanes began their second camp under detail-oriented coach Bill Peters with a better grasp on his system. Year 1 was derailed early by a rash of early injuries, but — not coincidentally — Carolina showed marked improvement later in the season once those healthy bodies returned.

It helps that much of the roster has been skating together at the team's practice rink ahead of the formal start of practice.

"Nowadays, everyone comes to camp in top shape and they're ready to go," Skinner said. "As soon as camp starts, everyone's going full speed."

Even the new guys, and there are a few of them. Goalie Eddie Lack was acquired from Vancouver in June for two draft picks. They picked up defenseman James Wisniewski in a deal with Anaheim and added forward Kris Versteeg last week in a trade with Chicago.

Lack — a free spirit who showed off a tattoo of a taco on his right forearm — is pushing Cam Ward, who won the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the MVP of the playoffs but is entering the final season of a six-year contract he signed in 2009.

"The better goalie's going to play," Lack said, "but we can still push each other on and off the ice."

Among the other noteworthy moves since last season ended: The Hurricanes bought out underachieving forward Alexander Semin — who has since signed with Montreal — for $14 million over six years — and locked up Lindholm, their promising third-year center, with a two-year extension worth a total of $5.4 million.

Carolina selected Lindholm with the No. 5 overall pick in 2013, and he had 17 goals and 22 assists in 81 games last season and could be poised for a breakout year.

"I know we've got something good going on, a good group of guys," Lindholm said. "I want to be a part of that."

Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap

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