Canes Corner

Questions abound as Canes prep for preseason opener

Posted September 18, 2013

The Carolina Hurricanes celebrate after a first period goal during the Carolina Hurricanes vs. Washington Capitals NHL hockey game, Tuesday, April 2, 2013 in Raleigh, NC.

Looking to answer several important questions before their Oct. 4 opener against Detroit, the Carolina Hurricanes will play the first of six exhibition games Wednesday night at home against Columbus. 

Unlike last year, when the training camp was shortened due to the lockout, the full slate of preseason action will allow players and coaches ample time to see what the team will look like prior to the regular season opener. 

With Cam Ward healthy and Anton Khudobin added to the roster, the goaltending situation has never been more solid. Many people around the league feel that Khudobin is ready to be a number one, Justin Peters has had a good camp showing as well. In short, this is the best the goaltending depth has been in years for the Hurricanes. 

There should be no worries about the top line duplicating last seasons’ output. Eric Staal appears to be fine after a scary knee injury suffered at the World Championships and seems to be more comfortable in his captaincy of the club.

Alexander Semin has a new contract and Jiri Tlusty, after missing some time in camp for precautionary reasons, is ready to show last season was not a one-time event.

Head coach Kirk Muller’s has stressed to the players that battling will get them an opportunity to make the team, and quite a few players received the message.

Muller says he has liked the effort, but there is only so much drills and intra-squad scrimmages can tell you. Squaring off against opponents in different jerseys will give the coaching staff a better read on what this team will look like.

Here are few things to watch for during the preseason.

Who will play alongside Jordan Staal and Tuomo Ruutu?

From the early indicators, it will be Drayson Bowman. Jeff Skinner was thought to be the player that would fill the other wing, but he and Staal didn’t mesh. Where Skinner is slated will be something else to watch for.

Zac Dalpe seems like the ideal candidate to fill this role. He should be given a chance to show that he is ready to be a full-time player at the NHL level. He took some steps forward last year, but injuries, inconsistency and the lockout sidetracked what should have been his breakout.

Don’t rule out Zach Boychuk. After playing for three teams last season, the former first round pick has played with a sense of confidence and in the scrimmages has shown the scoring ability that made him a top pick.

Is Elias Lindholm ready to center a line in the NHL?

The Carolina front office certainly thinks so and has from the moment his name was called to head to Raleigh.

Lindholm will be partnered with Jeff Skinner, hopefully forming a solid pairing and bringing more balance to the forwards. On paper, this is the team’s third line, and how this line plays will determine how other players are used in the organization.

The team signed veteran Radek Dvorak, a smart, reliable winger that kills penalties and can contribute to the scoresheet. If you watched the playoffs last year, you know that the third line is crucial to a team.

The past few seasons the Hurricanes have had the parts, but never the sum of what an NHL third line needs to be.

Patrick Dwyer, who quietly has fastened together a good NHL career, is a candidate for the wing. Nathan Gerbe would also be a fit here. The scrappy winger who signed as a free agent provides hustle and grit in with his game and has a nose for the net.

The team would like to put an experienced, defensively responsible player on the other side of Skinner and help take the load off a rookie center. The third line will play a huge factor in how successful this season will be.

 

Lots of wingers, not a lot of centers

The Canes have tremendous depth on the wings, but up the middle there are questions after the Staals. Even taking Lindholm into consideration, the candidates are Victor Rask, Jeremy Welsh, Brett Sutter and Riley Nash. There is at least one spot on the fourth line for one of these players to grab. Also, keep an eye out to see if Jeff Skinner slides to the middle. It is his natural position and the team might just see if he clicks there entering his fourth campaign.

Which wingers separate from the pack?

Competition is a good problem to have, and with as many as four open wings for this team quite a few have stepped up to show they want to stay in the NHL. Brock McGinn has played physical and is giving the coaching staff reason to keep him around.

Veteran Chris Terry, who had his first taste of the NHL last year, has been noticeable in a good way almost every day, to the point that Kirk Muller has acknowledged how pleased he is with the effort. Niclas Blanchard brings a tough element to the team, something that the fourth line can never have enough of. Add in the speedy Aaron Palushaj and his NHL experience to make a push to be on the opening night roster.

Jobs will be won and lost with the performances by this group and it could come down to the last preseason game to see who makes the roster.

Who will quarterback the power play?

With Joni Pitkanen lost for the season with the fractured heel, the options a bit limited. The power play struggled for long stretches last year, but Kirk Muller might have found a solution.

Watch for Alexander Semin to be the key player with the man advantage. This doesn’t mean he will play the point, but look for the plays to run through the talented winger. This is also a chance for Ryan Murphy to show that he is ready for prime time.

The defenseman and former first round pick will have to showcase his playmaking skills in order to secure a spot on the roster. Also expect Justin Faulk to get more time on the power play either with the top unit or the QB for the second grouping. The Canes need a consistent man-advantage attack, especially with the firepower coming into the Metro Division.

How will the defense gel?

Jim Rutherford made the blue line a touch more physical by adding Mike Komirsarek, something this team desperately needed to help out Tim Gleason and Jay Harrison. Ron Hainsey was added at the start of camp, and while he replaces Joni Pitkanen on the roster, their games are very different.

Hainsey will become a favorite with his shot-blocking ability. This added element will make the Canes a tougher group in their own end, and blocking shots is contagious. But how the pairings shape up will be something to look for through these six games.

In camp, Gleason has partnered with Komisarek. Right now the top six in no order would be Faulk, Gleason, Komisarek, Andrej Sekera, who arrived via trade at the draft, Hainsey and Harrison. The team would like to keep an extra defenseman, and that comes down to the play of Murphy and Brett Bellemore.

Many times the preseason is about fine tuning some parts. This year, the Hurricanes will have to use these games to see who is ready to do the reliable things to take the team on the long road to the playoffs.

3 Comments

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  • wlcat609 Sep 18, 9:53 a.m.

    One can only hope for the best and see what happens. While making the playoffs is a good goal, it may be more difficult due to the revamped division and the teams within. From the preseason glimpses I've watched so far, it looks like NHL hockey will be faster and more physical this season. How the Canes will do in this environment remains to be seen. Have at it, guys.

  • common tater Sep 18, 1:57 p.m.

    Really hoping the Canes can compete in the crazy new NHL division. I really wish they would put the preseason games on TV for those of us who have to save our $ for a few regular season games.

  • dwntwnboy2 Sep 18, 3:20 p.m.

    Go to stubhub or one of the other sites. I know last year I had friends getting tix for REGULAR season games for less than $15 a ticket in mid/upper levels. There is always SOMEONE who can't go to the game that night.

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
GT 80
NCSU 81
2nd
LOU 32
UNC 44
 
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
CAR
7:00pm Tonight
UVA
DUKE
7:00pm Tonight
ETST
NCCU
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
CHA
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ORL
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IND
SAC
 
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WAS
TOR
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ATL
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MIN
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MEM
OKC
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MIL
POR
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DEN
CHA
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SAN
LAC
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GSW
PHO
Final
TENN 71
AUB 63
Final
CLEM 64
BC 49
Final
STJOE 75
DAVID 70
Final
GT 80
NCSU 81
Final
PITT 76
ND 72
Final
STJ 75
PROV 66
Final
UNH 63
USB 48
 
Final
WVU 77
TTU 58
Final
TEMPL 55
TULA 37
Final
EMICH 69
WMICH 63
 
Final
IOWA 63
WISC 74
Final
SHU 90
XAV 82
Final
UF 57
ARK 56
Final
STET 75
LIP 73
 
Final
ILL 60
PSU 58
Final
TULSA 78
SFLA 71
Final
INDST 64
BRAD 58
 
Final
MAINE 59
GTDNS 77
 
Final
LEH 89
BU 86
 
Final
MARQ 68
BUT 72
Final
DEL 71
COC 68
 
Final
CREI 40
GEOR 67
Final
CLST 76
UWGB 62
 
Final
NEOM 65
MAST 75
 
Final
LOYC 45
ILLST 48
 
Final
KU 68
KYST 57
Final
JVU 50
KNST 51
 
Final
MSST 73
LSU 67
Final
SHU 71
MNTER 77
 
Final
VCU 55
RICH 64
Final
ISU 83
TCU 66
Final
BING 76
MLOWELL 69
 
Final
HART 46
VERM 65
 
Final
DEP 55
VILL 68
Final
WAKE 73
VT 70
Final
UGST 74
ARKST 43
 
Final
FAM 44
COOK 61
 
Final
NDAK 80
IDST 69
 
Final
ARMY 71
GHND 77
 
Final
BEL 71
TENT 53
 
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TXSA 57
UAB 65
Final
ILLCH 65
VALPO 70
 
Final
DRAK 70
EVAN 65
 
Final
IND 72
RUTG 64
 
Final
UMO 79
BST 73
 
2nd
RMU 44
BRY 52
 
2nd
WAGN 73
CCST 48
 
2nd
GWEBB 47
CCAR 51
 
Half
MDES 45
COPST 48
 
2nd
RFLSH 54
FD 50
 
2nd
RIU 38
GWU 33
 
2nd
SCAR 44
UGA 33
 
2nd
Terriers 59
LIU 49
 
2nd
PAC 52
LMU 44
 
2nd
STLU 39
UMASS 44
 
2nd
HOW 28
MRGST 20
 
2nd
DREX 60
UNCW 50
 
2nd
LOU 32
UNC 44
 
2nd
MIZZ 39
MISS 53
 
2nd
ALCOR 35
SOUTH 24
 
2nd
NIOWA 53
WICHS 36
 
2nd
JMU 47
WMARY 66
 
2nd
RAD 53
WINT 48
 
2nd
EILL 32
SIUE 32
 
Half
UNCA 24
CAMP 27
 
Half
MORE 34
EKENT 27
 
2nd
NICST 37
INCWORD 41
 
2nd
CMICH 41
OHIO 31
 
2nd
TEXAM 40
VANDY 25
 
1st
UWMIL 18
DET 6
 
1st
UNCG 22
WCU 23
 
1st
EWASH 20
IDAHO 30
 
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SDKST
DEN
 
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SHSU
HOUB
 
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YALE
 
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CSOU
 
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BUCK
COL
 
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DUKE
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NE
ELON
 
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CHAR
FIU
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ODU
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SAMF
FUR
 
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GMAS
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HARV
 
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LAS
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LONG
 
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NCCU
 
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NO
 
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NKENTUCKY
 
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PETE
 
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TAMCC
 
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DET 4
NYI 1
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CAR
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WIN
DAL
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NJD
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BOS
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CAL
EDM
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SJS
CHI