Now that the group in training camp is down to a more manageable number that resembles an in-season roster, line combinations and roles have begun to come into play.
The forward groupings, which can be found on our online depth chart here, are still a work in progress according to coach Paul Maurice. However, it appears they will be given a trial run over the final three exhibition games to see which players gel with one another.
Most notable was the use of Patrick O’Sullivan on a line with Eric Staal and Erik Cole. The winger, who is hoping to stick with the team after signing a two-way contract on the eve of training camp, has been impressive throughout the preseason and will at least get a chance to stay in that spot.
“We’re going to look at it,” said Maurice. “There’s no question he has the ability to do it, and he’s been working hard. Now we’re looking at chemistry.”
In the first special teams practices of training camp, O’Sullivan was also on the primary unit with Staal and Brandon Sutter. The second group had Jussi Jokinen centering Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Skinner, the latter of which had “a (heck) of a practice,” according to Maurice.
Defensive pairings on the power play were Joni Pitkanen with Joe Corvo and Anton Babchuk with Jamie McBain.
“What we really want to develop is a two-line power play team,” said Maurice. “Running one line for 1:30, they get worn down, frustrated very easily and scouted very easily.”
Back to even-strength lines, Zach Boychuk, Patrick Dwyer and Jiri Tlusty rotated in and out of set units. Maurice is hopeful that Tlusty, who was skating full-contact for the first time on Tuesday, could play by the end of the week.
“I don’t know how I feel about him yet,” said Maurice. “If he got through today and doesn’t feel sore tomorrow, then we’re on track. We’ll push him real hard for a couple of days and if he feels good, (he’ll play) Friday.”
Sergei Samsonov, who is dealing with a strained neck, was not at practice on Tuesday. Maurice said he was still uncertain as to a timetable on his return, and was not sure if he would make the trip overseas.
“We’re going to have to monitor that and see where he’s at, but if he’s not close, there really is no point in having him fly to Europe and back to watch hockey games if he’s injured,” Maurice said.
If the team chooses to have Samsonov stay home, a final cut from training camp would not be necessary as the group would then be down to the maximum of 25. If a cut is to be made, Maurice said that it would likely occur on Thursday.