Jan 15, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — The frigid temperatures inside Raleigh Center Ice Tuesday morning were no deterrent for the couple hundred fans that packed in to watch the team’s lone scrimmage of an abbreviated training camp. The heat created on the ice by the red and white teams of teammates was just enough to clear the glass of condensation, allowing the Canes threaded devotees to take in the action – a 5-2 win by the red team.
While the score was less important for the coaching staff than the gameplay of the veterans and the youngsters, the scoreboard lights were changed on the afternoon in large part to the usual suspects – and the delight of the spectators.
“The big boys scored so they’re happy, that’s good.” head coach Kirk Muller said. “Honestly, the pace and the tempo and the energy of the guys was better than we were expecting.”
Following a Drayson Bowman goal for the red team, it was Jeff Skinner that tallied the equalizer for the white. Newly acquired Jordan Staal scored the other white-team goal, Alexander Semin, playing for red, lit the lamp on a rocket of a wristshot past Cam Ward and then assisted on one of two Zach Boychuck goals.
“My big thing is looking to see if there is chemistry with (Eric) Staal and Semin, which obviously they connected, which was great to see,” Muller said. “Jordan Staal with Skinner, their line was good. If you look at the pairs at the top, that’s what we were looking to see. You can always put another winger in there.”
As Muller and Canes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford took in the game from a perch in the corner, the sides skated with the offense taking the lead over the defense in the scrimmage of friendlies. Ward in net for the white team and Dan Ellis, who was the recent recipient of a new deal, manning the red net, each saw a host of shots. The highlight save of the day went to Ellis who made a diving, cross-crease save with his stick to deny Jordan Staal on a seemingly open net.
Veteran defenseman Tim Gleason set the defensive tone for the day with an early first-period check on Skinner. As the day went on, he took on Chad LaRose, Jordan Staal and anybody else that went to the boards on his side of the ice.
“It started yesterday a little bit and it carried on to today,” Muller said of Gleason's intensity. “It’s great, good clean hits. He’s making guys aware that pretty soon we will be in opening night so it’s not the typical camp.”
As far as the younger guys and the recent Charlotte call-ups, Muller said they all had a role in the scrimmage and deserved their shot.
“When you bring those guys up you have to put them in a position to play and see what they can do,” Muller said. “I thought (Bobby) Sanguinetti was really good. He’s moving the puck, he’s confident, he’s healthy. He’s pushing for that spot. (Ryan Murphy) brings a different dynamic to the game. That’s a small rink, not much space for a young guy, but he’s so smart he was able to capitalize. Boychuck, he scored, he’s a goal scorer. (Zac) Dalpe I thought looked pretty good.”
Shortly after the scrimmages, forwards Jeremy Wesh and Riley Nash were sent back to Charlotte ahead of the Checkers game Wednesday against Grand Rapids. Muller added that the roster will probably not be finalized until Friday, the day before the Canes’ season-opener at Florida.
Carolina will practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at PNC Arena.
• Zach Boychuk has the most to gain from Tuomo Ruutu’s hip injury. With a spot open on the Canes roster the forward took a big step forward during the Canes scrimmage. Boychuk played on the Red Team’s top line with Eric Staal and Alex Semin, and he netted two goals on Cam Ward.
• Alex Semin looked the part of the guy that the organization has been looking for to play along side Eric Staal. Semin had a goal and an assist in the Red Team’s 5-2 victory, his goal was was highlight-reel material, firing an absolute laser that beat Ward high to the glove side. Equally impressive was his cross ice pass that set up Boychuk’s one-timer. A pass that looking at from the sidelines seemed like a feathered assist but Boychuk told me he didn’t expect the pass to get there that hard.
• Tim Gleason was the defensive stalwart of the game for the Red Team, setting a physical tone early with a fierce open ice check on Jeff Skinner in the first period. Gleason continued to set that tone and finished on a high note, eliminating Jussi Jokinen with a slean hit in the corner late in the third period to snuff out any chance of a late White Team scoring threat.
• Players and coaches were both happy with the pace of the scrimmage, Canes head coach Kirk Muller added that the smaller ice surface at Raleigh Center Ice had something to do with that. He compared it to the old Boston Garden, and the condensed rink didn’t allow players time to dangle with the puck and there wasn’t a lot of open space to hide.
• Dan Ellis had a solid performance in the pipes for the Red Team. While there was no official shot clock the veteran goalie made several outstanding saves. I also learned he might be the most honest man in the NHL, when asked about his most spectacular save of the afternoon, Ellis gave the credit to his defenseman Ryan Murphy, saying the rookie deserves the credit for the save.
• Jeff Skinner netted the first goal for the White Team and was on the top line with Jordan Staal and Zac Dalpe. There was some good chemistry between Skinner and Staal that generated quite a few scoring chances.
• There was a brief shootout after the scrimmage, Jordan Staal was the only goal scorer, using a rush move and going five-hole on Ellis. Cam Ward Stopped All three Red Team shots he faced.
• The Canes will keep defenseman Ryan Murphy around as long as they can. With the shortened season Carolina can keep him with the big club at least 5 games before they would have to return him to Kitchener of the OHL.
• Kevin Westgarth, known more for his toughness than his scoring prowess had a few solid scoring opportunities. The newly acquired winger set up some decent scoring chances for his linemates on the White Team. Kirk Muller has said that being able to role four lines in the shortened season will be a big key to keeping players fresh during the season.
• This was the only time the Canes will appear at Raleigh Center Ice during the mini training camp.
* Winning goaltender Dan Ellis liked how the scrimmage played out, “I thought it was a good pace for a training camp scrimmage, you know guys were hustling, guys had the energy out there and stuff like that. It’s going to take a little while to get things a little bit more crisp, but I thought the energy level and the effort level was there and it was a good pace. It was nice to have one of those NHL type scrimmages with NHL players and that kind of talent and get just up to speed at that level.”
*Zach Boychuk on playing on the top line, “Walking in this morning I was a little bit surprised I practiced kind of with the fourth and fifth line all week and all of a sudden today I was moved right up to the first line. there was a little bit of nervous excitement, right when that first puck dropped I think I was a little bit nervous but as the game went on I realized that I have been doing this for five months already and I’ve been playing lots of games in Charlotte and I felt I was in good game shape and I thought I played well.”