It is just the preseason, but winning sure beats the alternative.
The Carolina Hurricanes have now strung together three straight exhibition victories heading in to their preseason finale against Pittsburgh on Friday night.
“In sport, any time you play, the scoreboard goes on and the lights go on, you want to win. It doesn’t matter. You’re a competitive person,” head coach Bill Peters said. “Now, is it the be-all, end-all? No, it’s not. But would you rather be on the winning side? Yes.”
The team’s latest win came Wednesday night at PNC Arena, a 4-3 shootout decision over the Washington Capitals in what was a very entertaining game of preseason hockey. The Canes erased a two-goal deficit in the second period before the teams traded numerous chances in a chaotic 3-on-3 extra session and Nathan Gerbe scored the game-deciding tally in the shootout.
“It’s a huge win for us,” Gerbe said after the game. “It’s preseason, but you want to win every game at home and make that stand. That’s a pretty good team, and they dressed a pretty good lineup, too. Our compete level and coming back in the game was a big positive for us.”
“I thought yesterday’s hockey game was very entertaining,” Peters said after practice on Thursday. “Do you want to find a way to win that? You do. You’re tied going into the third, and you want to find a way to win those close games.”
And they did, breeding good habits now before the regular season begins next week.
“You want to win every game you’re in. Obviously right now they don’t count as far as standings go, but for confidence, knowing how to win and playing the right way, it’s good,” Eric Staal said. “We’ll hopefully follow it up with a good game at home against Pitt and look forward to starting the real thing next week.”
Between now and then, a last round of roster cuts will be made in order to get the Canes’ roster down to the 23-man maximum. The goaltenders are set, with Eddie Lack having played a full game on Wednesday night and Cam Ward prepared to play his second full game of the preseason on Friday, but there are still some decisions to be made with the skaters.
“We’re down to one game left with Pittsburgh, and we want to dress what’s close to what will be our regular-season lineup,” Peters said after Wednesday’s game. “These kids have done a real good job, but I think it’s time to get our group together and move forward.”
Even with 27 players remaining in camp, camaraderie has already begun to form on and off the ice. On the ice, it’s a vocal group, perhaps more so than last year.
“Yeah, seems to be. It still has room for improvement. You can always talk. Confident, good players talk a lot,” Peters said. “It was funny last night on the power play, right in front of our bench, Noah Hanifin is hollering for the puck, which I thought was quite interesting as a young 18-year-old wanting the puck.”
Staal is entering into his 12th NHL season. I asked him if the atmosphere in this year’s locker room differed from a year ago.
“Yeah, it does. It’s a real good group of guys. I think everybody in this room gets along,” he said with confidence. “We’ve had a team party already, just the guys and their wives, early on. Getting to know each other off the ice is huge, genuinely enjoying being here every day and working hard for each other. That’s big going into the season. We’re looking forward to everyone hopefully doing their job to the best of their ability and getting a lot of wins.”
A team identity isn’t formed overnight, but Peters knows what he wants to see from the Canes.
“It’s a hard-working, honest group. I think it’s going to be a group we’re going to be proud of at the end of the day and at the end of the year,” Peters said. “They come to work. We’re going to work, we’re going to compete, we’re going to hold each other accountable and we’re going to be hard to play against. It’s going to be a lot of fun this year.”
is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.Email