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Hurricanes top Lightning in preseason game one: Three thoughts

Jesperi Kotkaniemi made a quick impact in the Canes’ first preseason game, and the prospects looked hungry.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi celebrates with teammates after scoring his first goal as a Carolina Hurricane during the preseason game against Tampa Bay Lightning, Tuesday, Sep. 28, 2021 in PNC Arena.
Kaydee Gawlik

The Hurricanes played several more NHLers than the Tampa Bay Lightning in their 3-1 preseason win over the Bolts Tuesday night, and their prospect pool is probably better than Tampa Bay’s right now. Both of those things showed, and it’s really as simple as that.

However, there were still a few observations to take from the game, and players who stood out. Here’s three takeaways from the exhibition opener.

Kotkaniemi makes early impact, top line controls period one

Given the dearth of NHL talent in Tampa Bay’s lineup on Tuesday night, one would expect a line of three players of Vincent Trocheck, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Teuvo Teravainen to look dominant. They certainly did in the opening frame, combining for a pair of goals, both on the power play.

Kotkaniemi, the Canes’ most recent and perhaps most intriguing addition of a busy offseason, struck first, tapping in a slick cross-crease pass from Trocheck.

Later in the period, on another power play, Tony DeAngelo set up at the top of the umbrella and fed a pass to Teravainen at the left circle; the Finnish winger wired it home to make it a 2-0 game. Kotkaniemi also picked up an assist on that tally.

Preseason and training camp is a time for experimentation, and there’s no guarantee that trio is one the Hurricanes will roll with on opening night. But it’s one that’s earned a longer look, and could make for some intriguing possibilities on the top line if it can hold up.

The kids are alright

Fresh off a strong showing at the prospects showcase in Tampa, a number of the Hurricanes’ prospects put on impressive performances Tuesday, which is exactly what you want to see in the preseason opener.

Jamieson Rees in particular looked like a man possessed, flying around the ice, winning board and puck battles, engaging physically and making plays in both the offensive and defensive zone. He made about as strong a statement as you can make in preseason game one.

He saved his most impressive play for early in the second period, winning a board battle, surveying the ice and making a gorgeous pass to Jack Drury at the goal mouth for a tap-in.

Drury also had a strong game, and, while the Canes likely won’t have many, if any, roster spots up for grab out of camp, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one or both of those players earn a call up at some point this season.

Ryan Suzuki, Jesper Sellgren and Joey Keane also looked good in this one. While there’s only so many observations to take from a preseason game, prospects stepping up and giving their all is always a desired outcome. Chicago Wolves fans should be in for a treat this season.

Andersen turns in solid outing

At long last, the Hurricanes, who originally drafted the Danish netminder in 2010, got to see Frederik Andersen between the pipes for them. It’s not particularly easy to evaluate a goalie in a preseason game, especially in an early one with so few NHLers on either side.

Still, Andersen turned in a strong outing, stopping 36 of 37 shots, with nothing to fault him for on the Lightning’s goal. There were a few occasions where the Hurricanes’ coverage broke down or they allowed an odd-man rush, and Andersen made sharp saves when he had to, flashing his glove a few times.

Again, it’s extremely early, but, as both Brind’Amour and Andersen said on day one of camp, these guys are ultimately hear to stop pucks, and Andersen did just that on Tuesday night.

The Hurricanes will be back in action against the Bolts Friday night in Tampa with a 7:30 puck drop.