RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes’ informal practice had ended Tuesday at the RecZone when a familiar face loaded up an old familiar weapon, one that was missing last season.
Anton Babchuk was blasting one-timers. Bam, bam, bam.
As Sergei Samsonov served up passes and Babchuk fired away from the outside, some of the Canes players paused to watch the 6-foot-5 defenseman. In net was goaltender Justin Pogge for what amounted to “Hurt Locker” hockey duty.
“He’s got a pretty heavy shot,” Pogge said afterward, smiling. “It’s a heavy shot but he did shoot from the blue line.”
Babchuk’s big shot made him a 16-goal scorer for the Canes in the 2008-2009 regular season. But his offensive productivity fell off dramatically in the 2009 playoffs. So did his confidence.
Babchuk, a restricted free agent after the season, then spurned Carolina’s qualifying contract offer and returned to Russia last year.