There has been a great deal of anticipation regarding training camp this season, and for good reason. The Carolina Hurricanes finished up the final month of the regular season last year with one of the best records in the NHL. They survived two playoff series against higher rated opponents and played for the Eastern Conference Championship.
During the offseason, Jim Rutherford was able to make the team bigger and more physical, two perceived weaknesses of the 2008-09 campaign. But will that actually make the team better? Paul Maurice addressed the media after the first workout of the day and he believes the team is better, but he said that 29 other teams feel pretty good about themselves as well.
"The first thing I will do is take 29 sheets of paper and put the other 29 teams on there and then realize that everybody is feeling the exact same way in camp," Maurice said. "There is nobody this year in the NHL saying, ‘Boy, we got a lot worse this summer and I don’t like that we’re going to do.’ The strength of our team last year was we became a competitive group among ourselves and handled adversity when we got into it. That is going to have to happen here again. The names mean nothing. Our challenge is to come together and play Hurricanes style of hockey as quickly as we possibly can and understand this is going to be an absolute dogfight."
The coach also brought up a great point about Pittsburgh and the fine line between winning and losing in the NHL.
"Just keep in mind that there was a time with two months left in the season that the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t think they were playing in the playoffs," Maurice said. "So, that’s how close it is. And that team had been to the Stanley Cup finals the year before. That’s how tough this league is and we have to accept that challenge and be ready to battle every night. Our finish, playing in the Final Four last year, should only spur us on and not at all make us feel more comfortable".
How was practice? The veteran players in Group A skated through drills with plenty of speed and good form. Maurice ran the workout with help from Tom Barrasso, Tom Rowe, and Kevin McCarthy and ended it after about an hour. There were few surprises with the lines:
- Staal, Ruutu, Cole
- Cullen, Whitney, LaRose
- Brind`Amour, Samsonov, Walker
- Yelle, Kostopoulos, Conboy
Jussi Jokinen skated with a "no touch" yellow jersey because of a sore finger. (Maurice said that he should be good to go in a week). The coach also said that the Pitkanen knee procedure was not as "invasive" as what Brind'Amour went through last season and the defenseman should be ready to go before the regular season started. (Joni was on the stationary bike that day).
The youngsters of Group B took the ice an hour or so after the vets were finished and Maurice, Barrasso, and Rowe were joined by Jeff Daniels and Glen Wesley. (The red head made a few nice shots of his own after practice, drawing hoots from some of the media).
Zach Boychuk and Jamie McBain looked impressive and Mike Murphy looked very confident handling the puck.
The Canes will continue practicing everyday through Thursday when a game roster will be determined for Friday night's exhibition game against the Predators.
((Update- Group A will take the ice at 10AM on Monday instead of Group B as stated on the original schedule.))