Note: See the following post for more on Brind'Amour and tomorrow's lineups.
Rod Brind’Amour practiced with the Hurricanes for the first time since his knee surgery on Wednesday morning, coming out for the second half of the session after power play practice was over.
In addition to having the captain back out on the ice, the team’s day-to-day injuries seem to be healing as well. Anton Babchuk, Matt Cullen, Tim Gleason and Ray Whitney all practiced with the team for the second consecutive day Wednesday.
That’s no small feat either, considering that both Tuesday and Wednesday’s practices are much longer than usual. In-season practices typically take about an hour, but Tuesday’s session took about two and a half hours, including a 30 minute Olympia break, with Wednesday’s session (currently in progress) scheduled to do the same.
Each practice started with about 40 minutes of power play time followed by general systems work after the “intermission.” Whitney didn’t skate for the full practices, although he practiced on what’s presumed to be the first power play unit along with Eric Staal, Sergei Samsonov, Joni Pitkanen and Joe Corvo in the first halves.
Niclas Wallin, who has been out with a head injury since the team’s first preseason game, also made an appearance, skating prior to Wednesday’s session. Other than Justin Williams, only Tuomo Ruutu (groin) isn’t yet on the radar.
Coach Peter Laviolette said the long practices were necessary to make up for lost time when so many players, especially those important to the power play, weren’t practicing.
“We need to get everybody out there and we needed a practice like the one we had today,” said Laviolette after Tuesday’s practice. “We went over a lot of stuff and a lot of details of the game. You can draw things on the board, but you really need to go out there, slow it down and talk about it.”
In the first power play unit, I thought it was interesting that the Canes had Sergei Samsonov playing the center spot parked in front of the goaltender – a spot usually reserved for larger players who can screen the goalie and fight off a defenseman. There’s no question he has the hands to stuff home loose pucks from tough angles, however. Eric Staal played on the right side.
The second unit consisted of Dwight Helminen, Matt Cullen and a rotation of Scott Walker and Patrick Eaves up front, with Frantisek Kaberle and Dennis Seidenberg playing the point – more on those two later.
Brind’Amour and most likely Ruutu will also be in the power play mix when healthy.