Jimmy Howard isn't concerned about being unfamiliar with certain opponents now that the Detroit Red Wings have transitioned to the Eastern Conference.
After a successful yet sometimes sloppy introduction to the East, the Red Wings look to cut down on trips to the penalty box on the road Friday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, who open their season with some injury concerns.
Detroit (1-0-0) got its wish of switching conferences with the league's realignment, but that means having the majority of its games against teams it hasn't seen very much in recent years. For example, Howard is an eight-year veteran who has faced Carolina only twice, most recently a 3-0 loss April 6, 2011.
Howard and the rest of the Red Wings didn't seem fazed in Wednesday's 2-1 home win over Buffalo, as Mikael Samuelsson and Pavel Datsyuk scored 36 seconds apart in the first period.
"There's enough video nowadays that it shouldn't really matter," said Howard, who made 19 saves. "The coaching staff does a great job breaking down the teams for us and breaking down their players and their tendencies. There shouldn't really be any surprises for us."
The main focus for Detroit going forward will be on staying out of the box. The Red Wings were shorthanded seven times Wednesday, including a pair of 5-on-3 situations.
Though they were able to kill off each, minimizing penalties will be crucial.
"We're going to have to clean that up, especially early on in the year when it seems more tightly called," Howard said. "There's still a lot of areas that we can work on, and it's nice to get that first game under your belt."
Carolina is excited to finally get going, though some players likely will be fighting through injuries Friday.
Jeff Skinner (lower-body injury) recently began practicing after missing the final two preseason games, while Alexander Semin (upper body) returned to practice Wednesday.
The Hurricanes will be without Tim Gleason (concussion) indefinitely, but they signed fellow defenseman Radek Dvorak to a one-year contract Wednesday. Winger Tuomo Ruutu will begin the season on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.
Coach Kirk Muller, though, was encouraged by Semin's return to the ice.
"He's a guy that can miss time and just jump in. He's in good shape," Muller said. "He plays a lot more off instinct, than anything. He jumps right in and doesn't look like he really misses a beat."
Semin, who signed a five-year, $35 million deal in March and finished with 13 goals and 31 assists last season, will again play on the top line with Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty.
Staal led the team with 53 points while Tlusty scored a team-best 23 goals, and that line produced much of the scoring for the Hurricanes (19-25-4), who haven't made the playoffs since 2009.
It won't get any easier for them in the new Metropolitan Division, which includes Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders, New Jersey and up-and-coming Columbus.
"It's going to be tough. It's a good division," defenseman Justin Faulk said. "Obviously, there's a lot of teams that are pretty good. But we're looking forward to it. Every team's good in the league. Every night, anyone can win, and I think we're pretty confident with the group that we have in here to do a pretty good job."
Skinner, who had 13 goals and 11 assists in 42 games last season, enters his fourth NHL season seeking his first playoff appearance.
"We just want to make the playoffs. That's what everyone plays the game for," Skinner told the team's official website. "I haven't been there yet. That's the goal, and that's what everyone is striving for."
Detroit has four of the last five meetings.