While the Hurricanes roster stayed relatively intact during the off-season, there were a whole bunch of changes all around it. For the first time in franchise history, the team will take the ice today in front of a new general manager. A new bench boss will be making his NHL head coaching debut along with a new supporting cast. Under that new regime, the future Canes stars will be battling to prove they deserve a spot on the opening night roster.
With only two days between the start of camp and the first game, there has not been a lot of time to prepare on the ice. Head coach Bill Peters addressed practice in a manner that appears to be indicative of his style - strict, detailed but straightforward, intense but with a purpose. The early focus has been on driving puck possession using speed and positioning. There have been special sessions (led by Rod Brind'Amour) dedicated to the power play, a source of much frustration over the last few seasons.
Coming out of the first practice Peters felt the players were well-conditioned and intense, but sloppy in their execution. The execution improved significantly through Saturday's sessions, earning the players a well-deserved tip of the hat.
The 51 camp invitees are split into an 'A' group and a 'B' group, but Peters has repeatedly cautioned against reading too much into the roster split itself, claiming it is more for balance than any other specific purpose, and that there will be ample opportunities for the younger and less-tenured players to crack the lineup. At least one of those opportunities will arise as early as today.
The 'A' group gets the start today against Columbus, but they will be without their number one center, as Peters decided on Saturday to hold Eric Staal out of today's lineup. Staal is fine, and there are no reported issues with his recovery after off-season surgery to repair a core body issue, but there was no need to rush him into the first exhibition game. Resting the captain opens an opportunity for forward Riley Nash, who will center Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm. Nash is expected to lead the charge for the hotly-contested third line center role, but a red-hot performance by Victor Rask in the Traverse City prospects tournament has heightened the competition.
Also fresh from Traverse City, rookie defenseman Haydn Fleury, drafted seventh by the Canes in this summer's entry draft, will make his NHL preseason debut.
Today's projected line-up (updated 10:25 am):
Jeff Skinner - Riley Nash - Elias Lindholm
Brad Malone - Jay McClement - Patrick Dwyer
Phil DiGuiseppe - Ben Holmstrom - Chris Terry
Carter Sandlak - Patrick Brown -
Jared Staal Sergey Tolchinsky
Andrej Sekera - Ryan Murphy
Jay Harrison - Brett Bellemore
Haydn Fleury - Danny Biega
Anton Khudobin Cam Ward
Alex Nedeljkovic (breaking the news himself on twitter)
The Blue Jackets will also be playing with a split squad. One group is here in Raleigh for the game while the other squad remains back in Columbus for their preseason opener with St. Louis later this evening. Projected lineup from the team website:
- Forwards: Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Michael Chaput, Ryan Craig, Nick Foligno, Brian Gibbons, Mike Hoeffel, Mark Letestu, Corey Tropp, T.J. Tynan, Dana Tyrell, Trent Vogelhuber
- Defense: Tim Erixon, Cody Goloubef, Thomas Larkin, Frederic St. Denis, Will Weber, James Wisniewski
- Goalies: Anton Forsberg, Scott Munroe
Today's game won't be televised but plenty of tickets are still available, and you can listen to Chuck Kaiton's call on 99.9 FM The Fan.
- Recaps from Opening Day of Training Camp - [CH.com] [N&O] [WRAL Sports Fan] [Section 328] [Triangle Sports Network]
- Recaps from Day Two - [CH.com] [N&O] [WRAL Sports Fan]
- Bill Peters Audio [CH.com]
- Blue Jackets Training Camp Central Notes and News - [Blue Jackets.com]
Finally, a few of the Canes prospects took in NC State's 42-0 win over Presbyterian at Carter-Finley last night. How many of them can you name?