In his first NHL game, Justin Faulk is welcomed to the big leagues by a fan of the Buffalo Sabres during a pre-season game at First Niagara Center September 19, 2011 in Buffalo, New York. Faulk's solid play will give him a chance to experience this again. (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
As expected, the Hurricanes announced today that most of the prospects from the CHL have been returned to their junior teams. Defenseman Ryan Murphy is the exception among the 2011 draft class, and Paul Maurice says he will be playing in another exhibition game. Justin Faulk, who is 19, is also getting rave reviews as a young challenger who deserves a very long look for what he brings to the ice. Faulk signed a 2-way contract in the spring and, before camp, the consensus was that he was headed to Charlotte for more experience this upcoming season before cracking the Canes' line-up.
I was able to make today's scrimmage at noon. It was a bit different from yesterday in that only two NHL-lock players participated: Tim Brent and Jamie McBain. Several players who had not scrimmaged yesterday, but played in the game in Buffalo Monday night, including Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman, and Jerome Samson went head-to-head, giving them another chance to show what they could bring.
After the jump, additional notes to bring you up to date on today, as well as several links from the media in attendance.
There were only 15 skaters/side and the entire session was run as 4-on-4 hockey, so looking for lines among the forwards was not the purpose. There were a few regular pairings among the forwards that were held together throughout. White won the outing 4 -2 including an empty netter in the closing seconds.
Team White included two regular forward pairs of Brent with Brett Sutter (42), and then Jon Matsumoto with Boychuk. The other forwards were most often Samson with Cedric McNicoll, Brody Sutter (48) with Mattias Lindstrom. Brett Sutter and Tim Brent were the strongest forward pairing for either team, in my opinion, moving with purpose and a lot of jump.
Again, and inexplicably, Boychuk was not the game changer one would be looking for under the circumstances.
The second goal by Team White was all hustle allowing for a steal by Sutter42 in the neutral zone; he and Brent skated in on a 2-on-1 with Brent crashing the net. Sutter timed his centering pass perfectly so that Brent was able to chip/deflect it up and over Mike Murphy. These guys played like they wanted to score and had a plan to do so.
Later, in the third period, Samson skated in solo and beat John Muse, to put White up 3-1.
Team Red included Bowman, as well as Chris Terry, Justin Soryal, Riley Nash, Matthew Pistilli, Nicolas Blanchard, Justin Shugg, Mike McKenzie and the youngest, Victor Rask. While the regular Checkers had some chemistry when matched, another contender for an NHL gig, Bowman played with almost everyone, (Rask as the most interesting partner), but wasn't able to find the net.
Safe to say Red Goalie Justin Peters had something to do with that. Pistilli was the only foward to score when he took a cross-ice feed from Bobby Sanguinetti while Rask was parked in front of Peters for a successful screen to make it 2-1 after the first period. Sanguinetti scored the only other goal for Red in the third.
Playing 4-on-4 for three 20-minute periods (the last half was running clock) the defensive pairings enjoyed a bit more open ice. With offensively skilled players like Faulk and Murphy on one side and McBain and Sanguinetti on the other, there was plenty of opportunity to put their puck-handling skills on display. Sanguinetti was left wide open in the slot to get one past Peters in the third to bring Team Red within one, at a score of 3-2.
For Team White, Faulk and Murphy were out as a pair from the beginning and remained together throughout the game. I wouldn't be surprised if a [hypothetical] TOI report indicated that coaches Dave Lewis and Rod Brind`Amour had them out nearly half the minutes. Faulk was very much the leader of the twosome, but Murphy made some decent plays and often enough tried his trademark coast-to-coast run, only to get held up before he got to the circles by McBain, Michal Jordan, actually, pretty much anyone.
Based on comments we've been hearing for the last week, and that Maurice reiterated in the audio link below, Murphy and Faulk are showing enough to earn themselves more opportunity to hang around longer in the pre-season. Faulk, who is easily the more ready of the two, continues to shine.
Under the heading of "good problems to have" this creates some interesting challenges in determining who will be the Canes NHL defensemen - decisions that were not expected before the Traverse City tournament allowed management to see first hand where Faulk was in his development.
For posterity: Team White D was Faulk, Murphy, Austin Levi, Justin Krueger, Chris Murray, and Keegan Lowe. Other than Faulk and Murphy, there were no consistent pairs. Krueger probably saw more ice time than the remaining three.
Recently signed depth Defenseman Mathieu Roy skated in the earlier practice session.
Coaches and other eyes on the action
Peter Karmanos, Jr., Jim Rutherford and Paul Maurice during the third period of today's action
Photo by Jamie Kellner, All rights reserved
The coaching tandems were the same as the Red vs White game Sunday, with Lewis and Brind`Amour taking Team White, and Jeff Daniels and Tom Barrasso behind the Red bench.
In addition to the media, which included John Forslund and Tripp Tracy down low, most of the player-related management were visible watching from center ice on the west side. Paul Maurice, Ron Francis, Glen Wesley, Geordie Kinnear, Jason Karmanos, Amateur scout Tony McDonald and European scout Robert Kron (who is Czech) were there for most of the session, plus a couple others I didn't recognize. Jim Rutherford and Peter Karmanos, Jr. joined the group for the third period.
For all the discussion of intensity, this was not the powerful high energy game as we heard about yesterday. Perhaps it was the shinny-nature of 4-on-4 play that showcased offensive skill rather than a close-checking affair. It was also more about auditioning and a final spin on NHL ice for some, with not a lot of chemistry. The Checkers pairs looked the most solid, but, with few exceptions, no one really displayed an NHL-level of power with confidence.
Links from practice today
"It's surreal," Keegan Lowe said, smiling. "He's one of the best players in the league and just to be able to match myself up against him and see how I can compare to a player like that, it helps me see what I have to do to be able to handle guys like that. "It's a good experience for me. I'll have some good stories."
- This audio link will give you a chance to hear first hand many of the quotes from Maurice cited above. Audio: Sept 21, Paul Maurice following practice [7:39]. Maurice also talks more about the Gleason/Soryal incident yesterday and what he expects from Gleason's leadership and play this coming season. A good topic.
These three stories profile the new goaltender and the two new wings the Canes signed this summer, and who are generating a lot of discussion on whether they will be up to the opportunity available to them this season.
"The main thing was having a role to move up," Anthony Stewart says. "Other teams said they saw me as a third- or fourth-line guy and that’s where you are going to be. Carolina told me it was up to me where you play. That was the main thing for me – an opportunity to expand my role and get to where I need to be.
"I don't think it's so much to push Cam as it is to give him relief. When you get up around 70 games, it's tough physically and mentally. You need a break. So you need a backup who will make that a stable situation."
- Finally, for reference all year long, the Canes Communications staff today released the annual Media Guide. It's a large pdf numbering 265 pages. You can download it here: Carolina Hurricanes 2011-12 Media Guide. The players start on page 28 with Bryan Allen. Yes, they have the new headshots, albeit in black and white. The whole Jeff Skinner/Scarlet Pimpernel thing is on page 50. Have at it.