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DeCock: Canes return to health and winning ways

Three points from the Hurricanes’ 4-3 win over the Sabres on Tuesday:

1) Being healthy helps

Their injury crisis largely abated -- Joni Pitkanen and Tim Brent remain out, and Cam Ward has joined them, but everyone else is back -- the Hurricanes have recaptured the momentum they had before half the team got hurt.

Brent produces solid first season for Canes

Lost amid the talk about Eric Staal's run of points and Cam Ward's saves and the Canes' resurgence under Kirk Muller has been some players more quietly putting together solid seasons.

Tim Brent, to name one.

The forward, signed to a two-year free-agent contract in July, has 12 goals and 24 points -- both career highs -- in 74 games. Used mostly as the Canes' fourth-line center, he also has been shifted to other lines at times under Muller while getting significant power-play time at the point.

"You know how I coach, if someone's not going (in a game) someone will move up, and he's been up at right wing, at center," Muller said today. "He's always ready to play. He's quarterbacked our power play. Because of that he's stayed in the lineup and he's been an important part of some games for us this year."

Muller dips into Montreal playbook on PP

My column for tomorrow's paper is about the changes Kirk Muller has made to the power play, and how they're starting to show results, but the comparison between what he's doing here and what he did in Montreal last season bears some further examination.

Montreal's efficiency jumped four percentage points in the final 35 regular-season and playoff games, and P.K. Subban scored seven of his 11 power-play goals over that span. Over the past four games, Carolina is converting at a 24.0 percent clip, up from 12.2 percent under Paul Maurice.

Muller has given new roles to Justin Faulk and Tim Brent on the first unit, and he's starting to see results.

Canes sign free agents Boucher, Brent

NHL free agency began Friday at noon, and the Canes quickly were in the thick of it, signing goaltender Brian Boucher and center Tim Brent to two-year contracts while losing forward Erik Cole to the Montreal Canadiens.

Boucher, who was the backup goalie for the Philadelphia Flyers last season, will receive a total of $1.9 million. Brent's two-year deal is worth $1.5 million.

The Canes also have re-signed forward Jiri Tlusty to a one-year deal worth $525,000.

"We accomplished most things today," Canes general manager Jim Rutherford said. "Unfortunately we were not able to keep Erik Cole. ... We were able to get our backup goalie and our fourth-line center, the ones we were hoping to get."

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