With training camp concluded and the exhibition game against the Washington Capitals the nearest event on the horizon, head coach Rod Brind’Amour has some tough decisions to make on the backend.
However one spot that he doesn't have to think on for even a second, is Jaccob Slavin on the top pair.
The All-Star defenseman has continued to be one of Carolina’s most reliable defensive players and his high level of play will be crucial in the Rangers series
Slavin spoke to the media over Zoom following Saturday’s practice.
On the different feeling for this training camp: It definitely will be different. Your body is feeling good, it’s just the mental side of it that you have to be prepared right away. There’s a lot that goes into preparing for a regular season game, but when you start preparing for a playoff game, it’s different. You also throw in the fact that there’s no fans, that’s not going to feel like quite the same atmosphere, so to get into that playoff mentality is going to be a challenge. I think Rod has done a great job preparing us for that so far and making sure we know exactly what’s on the line. I think the guys in our room are ready for it. We know what we’re going up against and we know what we have to do to win.
On his impressions on the team: It’s been a long, but also in some sort of way quick, sort of two weeks here. Mentally, the guys are ready to get the games going. Physically, we’ve enjoyed these two weeks to get back into game shape as best as we can without playing games. Everyone’s looking good on the ice. Goalies are making some really big saves out there. I know it’s just practice, but the guys are starting to play with that game mentality. One of the drills today, one of the guys looked at me and was just like, ‘Hey. I’m throwing the body for a little bit this shift. Be ready for it. We gotta get going.’ Little things like that are helping us get ready and get prepared.
On being prepared for hits and physicality: That first one is always going to get you right back into it. I feel like it’s almost like riding a bike. Once you hop back on and start pedaling, you’re in it and know what to expect. Most guys in that locker room have played playoff hockey. Obviously, that Washington series last year was super physical so guys know what to expect. It goes both ways too. Once you start throwing bodies out there, you’re in it physically. Everyone needs to, even in the exhibition game, get into it right away and get prepared for Game 1 on August 1.
On what having a healthy Dougie Hamilton means: You look at our power play and a healthy Dougie and what that power play is able to do and obviously with the season Dougie was having leading up to being injured, it was spectacular. You look at the type of player he is and the offense he brings. For both of us, our defensive zone was good this year so just all over the ice he is an impact player out there. Hopefully he is back as quick as he can be. We definitely will need him for sure.
On Sami Vatanen: He is a solid player. You look at [Sebastian Aho] and [Teuvo Teravainen] and you see their skill set and Sami kind of brings that same skill set but just on the defensive side of things. He’s smart, he’s a smooth skater, really good with the puck, so he’s looking really solid. He has good anticipation on the defensive side of things so it will be fun to play with him.
On saying goodbye to the family: It’s hard. I woke up at 5:30 this morning. Gave Kylie a break. One last morning with Emersyn. It’s gonna be tough. It’s not gonna be fun obviously. These past four months have been awesome. Just being able to watch her grow and spend just so much time with her and my wife. So, being apart for an indefinite amount of time will be tough, but there’s FaceTime. She’s aware of what FaceTime is now so that’s going to be nice to have that, but it is what it is. It’s our job. We gotta do what we gotta do to go out there and win hockey games and also just take care of the family as well.