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Game Day in St. Petersburg

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
Some important programming notes before we get started:

First, the game tonight against SKA St. Petersburg is at 11:30 eastern time, not 11:00 as you may still be seeing on some areas of the site (I’m working on getting that changed). We’re not sure if that was a change or if we were previously misinformed, but we all learned of it at the morning skate.

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I’ve heard that the internet is reliable at the Ice Palace, so as of right now I’m tentatively planning to do the live chat. I have not seen our in-game seating area, so that could change. Either way, I’ll have live Twitter updates on canes_gameday.

As a reminder, live video with Russian commentary will be on the site and on - here's the link if you want it now.  Chuck Kaiton is here but is not calling the game, although he will in Helsinki.

SKA players were the first to take the morning skate on Monday morning. All along, the scouting report on the home team is been that their high-end players have bona fide NHL talent, but the depth players do not. That was more or less evident just from watching practice. Besides being familiar faces for us, guys like Alexei Yashin and Maxim Afinogenov clearly stood out from the rest of the group.

While that’s an advantage for the Hurricanes, a concern is that one of their star players happens to be the goaltender. Longtime San Jose Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov, now 11 games into his KHL career, had some insight on the transition.

“Everything is different,” he said, adding that his trip back home was mostly motivated by job security. “I don’t compare it because it’s different hockey.”

As far as Nabokov and Cam Ward are concerned, the biggest change will be the ability to play the puck without the restrictive trapezoid now used in the NHL. There’s also no-touch icing (referees blow the whistle as soon as the puck crosses the line behind the goal – no possession needed) and the wider angles that come with the bigger ice surface.

The Hurricanes players said that they’re feeling better with an extra day under their belt. They’ve also had some time to soak in the atmosphere surrounding the game.

“They’re looking at this as the NHL vs. the KHL,” said Eric Staal. “There’s a lot of hype around this game.”

It could be that some of that is rubbing off on the Hurricanes, who are more motivated than they would be for the typical exhibition.

“You never want to lose to the Russians.  That’s just how we were brought up,” said Staal. “In any international tournament growing up, it was always a big game and you got that competitive edge.”

If KHL alum Anton Babchuk is feeling any of that, he wasn’t letting on.

“Of course SKA wants to win, but one game is not going to tell you that much,” he said.

The Canes are expecting a fast start from the Russians, with the home crowd of about 12,000 fully behind them.

“In the first 10 minutes I think we’re going to be a little surprised with the speed of the game,” said coach Paul Maurice. “I’d love to be wrong, but we’re going to have to just hold the fort.”

Drayson Bowman did not take the morning skate after apparently having picked up a minor injury. Maurice said that he will be available for Thursday’s game in Helsinki. Jiri Tlusty, who is working his way back to game fitness following off-season knee surgery, skated in Bowman’s place alongside Brandon Sutter

“(Tlusty) has been off for a long time, and he more than anyone is trying to show us where he’s at,” said Maurice.

We’re off to grab some lunch before the bus leaves for the rink. I’ve just learned that there will be a press conference with Jim Rutherford and SKA/KHL president Alexander Medvedev two hours before the game, so I’ll probably check in after that.

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