The Carolina Hurricanes made their final roster decision of training camp today, as they assigned forward Riley Nash
That move comes on the heels of Chad LaRose
practicing today, an hour-long session that saw him at full-speed and vocal as usual. Head coach Paul Maurice said LaRose will be in the lineup on Friday.
The Canes are now carrying the league maximum of players on their roster in 23. This group, whittled down from 56 at the beginning of camp, features nine defenseman. Maurice has given no indication that he plans to dress seven defensemen, so three defensemen might be watching opening night from the press box.
Among the group of nine blueliners are rookies Justin Faulk
and Ryan Murphy
. A decision on where Murphy plays this season will have to be made, at the latest, nine games into the season; he could either go back to Juniors or stay with the big club. Faulk, on the other hand, can be assigned to Charlotte.
“With the defensemen, it's really a decision for upstairs,” Maurice said, in reference to Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford and his staff. “I’m comfortable with any of them in a game. And we’ll make those moves as they see fit.”
With the way lines in practice have been shaping up, it is likely that Faulk will be in the Canes’ opening night lineup. He saw extensive work on the power play today in practice, working with Tim Gleason
and Jay Harrison
“What he’s got – and we haven’t seen it yet – is a bomb. He can really shoot the puck,” Maurice said. “Sometimes these young guys will continually look for the more veteran guy to make him happy, and we don’t want to see it. We just want to see that shot off his stick because he can get it to the net. And rarely is it above the waist. A good heavy, shot from the point that’s low creates a lot of havoc.”
If you factor in veterans Gleason, Joni Pitkanen
and Tomas Kaberle, only a pairing remains for the taking between five players – Harrison, Jamie McBain
, Bryan Allen
, Derek Joslin
What this could result in is a slightly different look at defense each night, at least for the first couple of weeks in the season. When asked if there would be a set rotation or if it would be based on who plays well, Maurice said it would be a “bit of both.”
“Clearly, we have an opportunity to improve our defense if we have a guy that’s not playing well,” he said. “Golf analogy – we don’t want to [change] our grip on every hole, but at the same time, there has to be some pressure to perform. The players that are here that have experience are here in the NHL because they’ve proven they can play, but they need to continue to do it. And we have young players that are going to play.”
With Nash being reassigned, the Canes are set at 12 forwards. What remains to be seen is who will play on which line. Now that LaRose is back in the fold, practice tomorrow should reveal some of the thinking in terms of combinations.
While there still be some question marks in terms of the roster, when asked if there was anything certain heading into this season, Maurice was confident in his answer.
“The two guys standing between the posts,” he said, referring to Cam Ward
and Brian Boucher
. “We’ve got world-class goaltending. Arguably the best goaltending in the National Hockey League.”