The Carolina Hurricanes have 36 players left in the 2011 Training Camp, and all but one participated in 90 minute practice sessions this morning at the RBC. While Chad LaRose, Patrick Dwyer, Derek Joslin, and Tim Brent seemed to be at 100%, Tuomo Ruutu was held out once again following what is officially called a minor LBI coming out of Friday's game vs the Nashville Predators.
Following practice, 29 of the 36 players headed to the airport to take the team's first flight to Manitoba to face Southeast Division rival Winnipeg Jets in a preseason rematch of Sunday's lopsided tilt in Charlotte. Veterans Eric Staal, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Chad LaRose, Tuomo Ruutu, Tim Gleason, Joni Pitkanen and Cam Ward remained in Raleigh. Coach Paul Maurice said he would announce tomorrow which 18 skaters would play in Wednesday night's game. Previous reports said Brian Boucher would be in goal the full 60 minutes with Charlotte- bound Mike Murphy as backup.
I was able to make it to both the practices earlier today and I've got some quick notes. Plus some links from others on what's new on Edwards Mill Road.
Group one (9am)
Group one included 10 forwards, 6 defensemen and goalies Cam Ward and Mike Murphy.
The biggest news was that Maurice had Zac Dalpe up on Staal's right wing opposite Ponikarovsky. We'd seen this combination for the latter parts of the game in Charlotte Sunday, and apparently the coaches agree it was worth further consideration. Personally, I thought it looked tremendous, with the speedy rookie RW making some beautiful plays and quick passes to both his linemates as they brought the puck up the ice at full speed.
The hockeymom in me says that though he wasn't exactly nervous, Dalpe was definitely paying extra close attention, like someone with some elevated adrenaline levels in the mix. All in all, a good thing.
The other two lines were Tim Brent between Drayson Bowman and Zach Boychuk; and four players finishing out the final line with Jon Matsumoto centering Chris Terry, Brett Sutter and Jerome Samson who switched out with the drills.
Maurice was leading the drills for the entire 90 minutes, and his voice was hoarse when he shouted. Rod Brind`Amour, Dave Lewis and Tom Barrasso offered one-on-one input at the breaks, but this was Maurice's show today.
There were a variety of drills eventually working up to five-on-five. I have seen nothing yet on special teams. Much of the instruction was developing solid break out patterns requiring the forwards skate back hard thereby giving the defensemen options for "quick ups" when transitioning the puck. Many of you will be glad to know that the message was to skate the puck in, suggesting dump-ins will be highly frowned upon going forward. Working the timing and positioning of a five man unit cohesively garnered the bulk of the time today.
To finish out the final 15 minutes, they endured between-the-bluelines suicide skating drills (back and forth, quickly with hard stops) and in the various groupings you could see that Ponikarovsky moves incredibly well for someone of his size (and recent injury history), and generally completed first in his group, ahead of Zac Dalpe, whose straight-line speed is his claim-to-fame.
Another grouping included Ryan Murphy and Eric Staal, who are 6" different in height, but whose skating speed in this drill was closely matched. With each repetition (and there were probably 2 dozen reps) they seemed to notice and were pushing each other with smiles. When one or the other started jumping the whistle to get a headstart you could see neither wanted to concede defeat.
Before heading off the ice, Ponikarovsky and Dalpe went down to one net, and Poni took probably 20 rapid wrist shots from fairly close range as Dalpe was there to feed him pucks.
Group 2 (11 am)
With Ruutu held off the ice, the second group worked out to 9 forwards and 6 D, with Justin Peters and Boucher in the nets.
Line #1 was Jeff Skinner centering Jussi Jokinen (LW) and Anthony Stewart (RW). Yes - that's an option with Ruutu out, to put Skinner back to center. Number 53 got some extra facetime with Maurice, likely getting guidance on Skinner's move to the pivot position.
This group was more veteran and more vocal (hint: they call him Rosebud). Brandon Sutter was also hardly the wallflower in the chirping department himself. It probably helped it was 2 hours later in the morning too.
Almost all the drills were identical to the first session with similar calls and corrections coming from Maurice and echoed by the other coaches "Forwards have to come back! Get back!"
During the five-on-fives, Brind`Amour was dropping pucks and used the opportunity to share some faceoff tips with Nash and Skinner.
After the skating drills, I was encouraged to see Kaberle skating around looking for some more action and took some practice slapshots. So yes it seems 1) he's in decent shape and 2) he can shoot.
With only 7 staying behind, I'm not sure what tomorrow's practice session here at the RBC Center will be like, but stay tuned for reports from Winnipeg as to who will be getting one last shot before significant cuts are made Thursday.
It's possible the TSN broadcast of the Winnipeg game will be carried by NHLNEtwork live. Gametime is 8:30pm ET. The schedule does show as being repeated at 3am and 11am Thursday for your DVR.
Canes Now - Dalpe excited to get look on Staal line "They like to play north-south and that's my game too," Dalpe said of Staal and Ponikarovsky. "Hopefully we'll complement each other well and hopefully I'll get a couple more games with them and get more comfortable."
The folks at NBCSports.com have picked up on the chatter around Dalpe and his move to Eric Staal's wing in this post also today.: Can Zac Dalpe have a Jeff Skinner-like breakout for Carolina? | ProHockeyTalk Chances are you haven't heard much about Carolina's Zac Dalpe. If his performance in training camp carries over to the regular season, you might be hearing a lot about him.
Under the heading the "conspicuous absence" no mention of Zach Boychuk in this latest article talking with Bowman and Samson and life on the bubble: Time Crunch for Cusp Players - Michael Smith, Tracking the Storm With the regular season just a week and a half away, roster decisions are looming.
Post practice audio with Maurice 9/27/11 (4 minutes)
Notes from Charlotte's Camp: Shugg Starting Fresh - Paul Branecky, gocheckers.com After as successful of a junior career as a player could ask for, Justin Shugg is essentially starting over.
Plus Chip Alexander caught up with Peter Karmanos, Jr at the Hurricanes luncheon yesterday and had this on the owner's perspective on the State of the Canes. Canes owner talks of future, new owners, and playoffs - Canes - NewsObserver.com Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos appeared optimistic about his team's chances this season, adding the Hurricanes had a legitimate shot at making another strong Stanley Cup run "if everything comes together."
Three hockey players went into The Pit....
Meanwhile this is the kind of tweets Carolina's latest head-turning rookie forward is sending out, showing he is clearly buckling under the glare of the NHL limelight (not). From last night:
@ZacDalpe22: Eating at the World famous restaurant "The Pit" why haven't I ate at this place before? Its unbelievable! The Sutters are in heaven.
An hour or so later, this missive went out to his 3700+ followers:
@ZacDalpe22: 3 hcky players screaming remind me by brad&carrie in the car is probably something you don't see everyday, man is it a good tune though lol
What's worse? The mental image or the mental soundtrack? If you don't know the song....