Carolina Hurricanes training camp shifted to Raleigh Center Ice, the team’s practice facility, on day two. With competition already running high, the smaller rink only served to magnify the swell of intensity.
Two group practices sandwiched an up-tempo, physical scrimmage, which was the highlight of the day and didn’t disappoint Canes head coach Kirk Muller.
“I’m very pleased. The competitive level was great,” he said. “We said there are jobs available, and we want you to go out and compete. The season started yesterday, not October 4. I was quite happy because I think a lot of guys got the message.”
Before they can battle as one, they must battle against one another.
And that’s exactly how the first scrimmage of training camp played out Friday, as Group A (Team Eric) was pitted against Group B (Team Jordan) in a physical, fiery 40-minute intrasquad exhibition.
There were hits – like the one Jared Staal lay on Tim Gleason early in the match, to which Gleason responded with a friendly slash.
“I thought [Staal] set the whole tempo of the practice today,” Muller said.
There were scraps – like when cross-checks in front of the net turned into punches with Mike Komisarek and Nicolas Blanchard.
“A lot of these young guys run around with all this energy, and sometimes you’ve got to quiet them down a little bit,” Komisarek quipped. “It just sort of happens. It’s not like you wake up this morning and say, ‘You know, let’s try to grab someone and fight them right off the bat.’ It’s part of the game, and it happens.”
“Blanch is a guy who wants to try to make the team,” Muller said. “Mike is a new guy who is showing why we brought him in: he’s a great character guy.”
Later in the scrimmage, Brendan Woods crunched Jiri Tlusty along the near boards. A dazed Tlusty was wobbly on his feet and missed the rest of the skate but said he was fine as he left the ice; Muller said he should be back skating as early as Saturday.
“Hey, camp’s started. There are a lot of guys ready to go,” Muller said. “If I’m a player, I worked hard all summer, I trained in the gym all summer and I knew there was a job open right now, you’ve got to go out and show it.”
Shortly after the Tlusty hit, Matt Corrente settled the score with Woods in a quick scrap.
“I’ve been in some camps that people have said, ‘Hey, no fighting. Let’s just play.’ But you know what, that’s great if you’re at a certain level,” Muller said. “For me and the staff, we said we didn’t make the playoffs last year. We’ve got to get a more competitive group. We made some changes, and there are some guys in the system that are there.”
“The guys are sick and tired of working out and doing drills,” Komisarek said. “You just want to get into games and start battling, competing and playing. That’s just the build up of a long summer, and guys are showing that they’re ready.”
There were also goals – one aside to be exact, with Zac Dalpe and Drayson Bowman finding the back of the net – but the result didn’t carry much weight.
“I think everyone was really eager to get in there, start competing and battling and get in that game environment,” Komisarek said. “The scrimmage definitely brought out some intensity.”
“We’re not a team that made the playoffs or was in the Stanley Cup Final last year,” Muller said. “We don’t have our 20 set guys. We’re looking for guys that want to play a certain style and play hard. I thought the guys got the message, and they did it on the ice today.”
Each group practiced for around an hour on Friday with a similar set of drills that honed in on defensive zone positioning with battling in the corners and in front of the net.
Nathan Gerbe (personal) and Sergey Tolchinsky (day-to-day) didn’t skate with Group B but could be back on the ice at some point this weekend. Tlusty, who was shaken up in the scrimmage, didn’t skate in Group A’s practice afterward. With the exception of these missing players, lines were fluid from Thursday’s skate and will likely remain so through Sunday’s scrimmage.
What to Expect Moving Forward
Saturday’s slate, which sees the team back at PNC Arena, looks identical to today’s with the first group on the ice at 9 a.m., followed by a scrimmage and a second practice. The Caniac Carnival is Sunday, the highlight of which is the Red/White scrimmage set for 1 p.m.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of decisions to make,” Muller said. “We’re not letting up. What we saw today, that was a start. But we want to see that again tomorrow.”