Today marks a couple of firsts for hockey in North Carolina as the Carolina Hurricanes will play in Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena, the home of the club's AHL affiliate Checkers - a first for
an NHL game in the Queen City the Queen City's new Uptown arena or for the Hurricanes franchise [*see ed note below] . The Canes welcome the Winnipeg Jets, (who many of you will recognize as the former Atlanta Thrashers), back to the humid climes of the American Sunbelt, for what is the New Jets first match of any sort vs a Southeast Division team.
The Canes are now at 0-2 in the preseason, with losses to Buffalo and Nashville in the last week. Based on practice reports Saturday, Coach Paul Maurice was not pleased with the players' effort Friday night vs the Preds, particularly in transition, unable to quickly move the puck up ice. With many of the same players on Maurice's roster card this afternoon, the group should be primed to make good on their lackluster showing at the RBC Center Friday.
Cam Ward is slated to start in goal and play the full sixty minutes. He gave up one goal on 21 shots in the first two periods vs Nashville, and looked quick and fluid after missing the first several days of Training Camp with "upper body stiffness".
I have the expected line-ups and some notes after the jump.
If you're headed to the game, Canes Country's Guide to 2011 Training Camp - Week 2 is updated to reflect the most recent roster cuts - you can download the 4-page .pdf and, if you like, print it out for reference.
Maurice is bringing some of his top veterans to Charlotte for this game, though he is allowing a few of the most impressive prospects more time to show what they've learned and to see if they are able to maintain the NHL pace. Both Ryan Murphy (age 18) and Justin Faulk (19) will get another game to build on, as they challenge for a spot despite Carolina's completely stocked collection of puck-moving defensemen.
With 36 players still on the Camp roster after yesterday's cuts, there are still 16 sitting out. Many of those playing the Jets today will not be the on the plane to Winnipeg for Wednesday's rematch. Maurice indicated to the N&O's Chip Alexander that "a young group would go to Winnipeg next week, calling it the 'final dance' for some players before a roster cut."
The Hurricanes now count four forwards with various minor injuries who are being held out till they're 100%. Wings Chad LaRose and Patrick Dwyer were back skating with the team this weekend after taking a few days to recover from "tweaks" in Monday's Sabres game. Centers Tuomo Ruutu and Tim Brent went down Friday, each with lower-body injuries, and are taking time off for what we're told are simply "precautionary" reasons.
With second line center Ruutu held out, Riley Nash, age 22, gets a tremendous opportunity today to prove his skills when given a pair of NHL wings at his sides, namely Jeff Skinner and Anthony Stewart. Nash, a native of Western Canada and a former first round pick [Oilers, 21st overall in 2007], has emerged this week with the conditioning and confidence to compete with the other top prospects vying for a spot with the big team.
Another forward getting a longer look is Brett Sutter, who, at 24, is 20 months older than cousin Brandon. Brett Sutter (wearing #42) will play on Matsumoto's wing. Displaying grit, hustle and great hockey sense, Sutter seems to be an ideal fit in an NHL checking line role. We might see him last a little longer in camp, in part due to the injuries to the NHL regulars.
Based on reports from yesterday's practice, it looks like these will be the forward lines. If the Canes announce anything that is different this morning, I will update it.
Defensive pairings are somewhat less certain, but I would expect them to look something like these:
Cam Ward will start, and should stay in for the entirety of the game.
Because the Winnipeg team is playing three road exhibition games in three days (this is Game 2, Day 2), they have split into two squads and several of the more well-known former-Thrashers are not going to be on today's roster for the game in Charlotte. Among those missing are forwards Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, 2011 1st round pick Mark Scheifele, and familiar face Troy Bodie, who is with the team on a PTO, trying to earn a contract for the year.
While the talents of Ladd and Kane will be missed, the Canes will be up against some strong defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien and Zach Bogosian. Nik Antropov and Alexander Burmistrov will be the Jets leading forwards, while goalie David Aebischer is on a PTO with Winnipeg after a few seasons in Europe playing in his native Switzerland.
The Canes' Anthony Stewart was part of the Thrashers organization the last two seasons, but in June as an RFA, he was not tendered a qualifying offer by the new management in Winnipeg, a decision that seemed to surprise many, Stewart most of all. Will that motivate Stewart to give a little extra on the ice in his first game against his former team?
According to Illegal Curve, a Winnipeg Hockey blog, these are the players who are in Charlotte today:
Forwards: Nik Antropov, Alex Burmistrov, Kyle Wellwood, Tanner Glass, Jason Jaffray, Eric O`Dell, Riley Holzapfel, Kevin Clark, John Albert, David Koci, Shawn Weller, Shayne Wiebe, Marco Rosa, Travis Ramsey
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UPDATE: As of 4:30, another change in the availability of a video stream. It seems there are technical problems and the video stream is now in doubt. This is what happens when you do something the first time. Of course, back in 1994 there was NHL hockey in Charlotte and hardly a soul saw it happen or remembers, so there's been a bit of progress. If they can get it working, we'll let you know as soon as they say.
Good news for those who didn't get to Charlotte today: Just saw a tweet from the Canes that they expect to stream the game at CarolinaHurricanes.com. Today's game will not be televised or video-streamed but Also, you can listen to the radio broadcast on 99.9 the Fan online here. If you're among those who will be at the TWCA today, here again is Canes Country's Guide to 2011 Training Camp - Week 2.
Bob will be making the trip and will host an open thread starting at 4:45. He will be making live updates during the game from press row.
* After a lot of googling by Chasing Checkers and with the help of specifics provided by possum187 (who has been following hockey in Charlotte for nearly 20 years it seems), we have the details on two previous NHL preseason games in Charlotte. Boston vs Florida, 9/14/97 and Nordiques vs Capitals, 9/21/94.
Paul Branecky looks at the prospects who are looking to make the leap to Raleigh: Hopefuls to get shot alongside Canes' Stars in Charlotte - Paul Branecky, gocheckers.com Faulk, who has impressed ever since Carolina drafted him after Skinner in the second round of the 2010 draft, will have a tougher time cracking the NHL lineup to start the season due to the simple numbers game but has not looked out of place thus far.
This preview takes a good look at the relationship between North Carolina's two largest cities and how hockey connects them: Canes head to Queen City | CharlotteObserver.com Eric Staal likes the thought of the Carolina Hurricanes playing a preseason exhibition game in Charlotte, even if it means an extra time commitment during training camp.
The story goes on to quote Checkers coach Jeff Daniels:
"I think to have the big team come down and play the day before our camp builds the excitement, and builds the commitment the Charlotte Checkers have and the Carolina Hurricanes have to building hockey in North Carolina," Checkers coach Jeff Daniels said. "Over the years you'll see more players make the jump up to the big team. "People get a first taste of watching a Dalpe, a Bowman, and then the next thing you know they make the big club. I think it's a win-win for everybody."