Finally, Carolina Hurricanes come home

Let us consider this. Thus far, the Carolina Hurricanes have traveled more than 15,000 miles through 11 time zones in four countries. They were away from home for 19 of the first 23 days in October and have played in cities as far flung as St. Petersburg, Russia, Helsinki, Finland, Ottawa, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

They have woken up in the middle of the night on a plane. They have played at 6 p.m. local time twice. They have had morning skates at 8:30 a.m.

What they have not done -- at least until Wednesday night -- is put on their home jerseys and skate out in front of their fans in Raleigh, N.C.

"It doesn't really hit you until you walk into your rink and you realize you haven't played in front of your own fans yet," Carolina coach Paul Maurice told ESPN.com on Tuesday afternoon. "We're still waiting for our first home game. It's been a new experience for a lot of us. It just seems that our schedule has been really unusual."

On Wednesday night against the Washington Capitals, Maurice is hoping the thrill of actually being able to open the true home portion of the team's schedule will be enough to overcome whatever normal physical letdown there is from having traveled across the continent.

"I just hope our legs catch up to our emotion," he said.

After winning their first two games against Minnesota in Helsinki as part of the NHL's Premier Games, the Canes practiced for a couple of days at home before hitting the road again. They stumbled in Ottawa and Vancouver, but found their legs again and won two of three to finish their odyssey with a 4-3-0 record.

"The first two games [back in North America], there was not a lot of energy," Maurice said.

Back when training camp started, Maurice skated the young Hurricanes hard, knowing they wouldn't get as much of a chance to get in consistent, hard workouts with travel and other events connected to the European trip.

Apart from the four wins, Maurice said he'll take away his observations of the team coming together during its prolonged start-of-season odyssey. As the days passed, there were a lot more laughs and a lot more jokes within the group, he said.

Not that Carolina's road challenges are at an end. From Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 6, the Hurricanes will play seven games, three more on the road. By Nov. 13, they will have had 10 road games, or one-quarter of their road schedule, under their belts.

"We really upset somebody at the league office last year," he joked.

Still, Maurice figures this period will be a true barometer of whether his team has bonded and turned what could have been a drawback into an advantage later in the season.

In the short term, however, Maurice and the rest of the Canes will be happy to get caught up on laundry and seeing the familiar sights of Raleigh, especially their fans.