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Hurricanes vs. Blue Jackets: Preseason Game Preview 9-18-13

After an intense week of physicals, drills, board battles, scraps, and scrimmages, it's time to lace up the New Storm jerseys as the Hurricanes face the Blue Jackets in their preseason opener.

Hurricanes 2013 first-round draft pick Elias Lindholm gets a look in tonight's line-up.
Hurricanes 2013 first-round draft pick Elias Lindholm gets a look in tonight's line-up.
Jamie Kellner

Carolina Hurricanes vs Columbus Blue Jackets
Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - 7:00 pm EDT
PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
Radio - 99.9 The Fan

SB Nation Rival Blog: The Cannon (twitter @cbjcannon)

The Carolina Hurricanes kick off their 2013-14 season tonight with an exhibition match against one of their new Metropolitan Division rivals, the Columbus Blue Jackets. With four games on the schedule over the next four nights, the Canes' training camp roster will be split among veterans and new-comers and there will be plenty of story lines on a game-by-game basis.

Eric Staal may have said it best when he described the team as "chomping at the bit" to get the season rolling. Throughout the start of training camp, and in the weeks leading up, there has been a sense of restless anticipation and a resolve to put some distance on the failed 2012-13 season. Here are a few things to watch heading into tonight's game.

1. After twenty-two months as head coach, Kirk Muller finally gets the chance to imprint his philosophy and high tempo style with a full formal training camp. By all accounts, the intensity shown during his first camp has not disappointed. Tonight will be the first opportunity to see how that translates into game readiness.

2. Assuming Jiri Tlusty's injury is a minor setback, five of the top six forward spots appear to be a lock, but opportunities exist up and down the rest of the forward ranks. 2013 first-round draft pick Elias Lindholm has looked solid in camp and will face NHL competition for the first time tonight. Jeff Skinner's landing spot will continue to be evaluated as he is tested in different roles. Tweeners who impressed in Sunday's intra-squad scrimmage (Drayson Bowman, Zac Dalpe, Chris Terry among others) see another opportunity to prove they can stick with the big club.

3. Veteran defenseman and off-season acquisition Mike Komisarek has drawn a few comparisons to Bryan Allen, and he'll get a look as that big body presence in front of the net tonight paired with Tim Gleason. Meanwhile Ryan Murphy, who impressed when called up from Kitchener for four games last season, will have his quick skating and puck-moving on display and will likely see power play duty.

4. Last but never least, Cam Ward finally returns in net after suffering an MCL sprain that cut short his last season and pushed him down the list for Team Canada Olympic consideration. Ward comes into the season with a fire in his belly and will want to set a confident tone early. He'll have plenty of chances to build up for the regular season, as Muller stated he intends to play Ward in four out of the six preseason games.

Canes lines (per depth chart):

Drayson Bowman Eric Staal Alexander Semin
Jeff Skinner Elias Lindholm Nathan Gerbe
Chris Terry Jeremy Welsh Zac Dalpe
Nicolas Blanchard Brett Sutter Kevin Westgarth
Tim Gleason Mike Komisarek
Michal Jordan Brett Bellemore
Jay Harrison Ryan Murphy
Cam Ward Justin Peters

Tonight's rival, the Columbus Blue Jackets, will be worth watching closely as they move East this year and join the Hurricanes in the new Metropolitan Division. The Canes and Jackets will meet again next week in Columbus as the preseason draws to a close, and will face each other five times during the regular season.

The Blue Jackets arrive in Raleigh having already played three games in their preseason schedule, including a two-fer last night with a squad in Columbus facing the Sabres (3-1 loss) while another squad traveled to Minnesota to face the Wild (3-1 win). They also defeated the Penguins 5-4 in an overtime win on Sunday night. Likely line-up (per Blue Jackets website):

Forwards - Alex Aleardi, Sean Collins, Ryan Craig, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Marian Gaborik, Boone Jenner, Ryan Johansen, Andrew Joudrey, Derek MacKenzie, Kerby Rychel, Jack Skille

Defensemen - Tim Erixon, Jack Johnson, Thomas Larkin, Nikita Nikitin, David Savard, Fedor Tyutin

Goal - Curtis McElhinney, Mike McKenna

There is no television coverage for tonight's game, so either get thee to the arena or listen to the dulcet tones of ChuckandtheletterK on 99.9 The Fan.

The game thread will open at 6:30 pm. See you at the rink.