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Gameday: Canes Close Out Preseason in Nashville

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes will play their final preseason game of the year tonight in Nashville. Coming off a 3-2 loss last night, this quick turnaround gives the team a chance to correct some of the small things that just weren’t quite right.

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Among those problems was a lack of offense from the top two scoring lines and little execution and sharpness on the power play, according to head coach Paul Maurice.

At the same time, if those elements of their game aren’t firing on all cylinders tonight, it’s not a complete cause for concern; there is still a week left of hard practices before the regular season begins.

“It’s growing pains. We brought in some new players, and as part of coming together, we’re going to have some pains,” Patrick Dwyer said. “But we went over it – what we need to fix – and we still have a little bit of time before the regular season starts to fix it. I think we’ll be alright.”

Dwyer potted one of the two goals for the Canes last night, stuffing in his own rebound after Anthony Stewart set him up. Though the fourth line is typically the energy line, the trio of Stewart, Tim Brent and Dwyer showed they could provide some offensive spark as well.

“The longer we can keep it in the offensive zone and change the momentum in games, the more ice time we’re going to get as a line,” Dwyer said. “That’s our job – to bring energy every night.”

“There’s some offense there, and some different elements,” Maurice said. “Really good speed on the wings. And [Brent] is smart down low, and he can make some plays.”

Despite the success of the fourth line last night, minor injuries to Chad LaRose and Jussi Jokinen have forced a shake-up in the combinations for tonight. Drayson Bowman has been re-called from Charlotte, and will skate on the fourth line with Brent and Riley Nash.

Joni Pitkanen is also out of the lineup tonight, which allows 19-year-old Justin Faulk to slide up into the top pairing with Tim Gleason. As camp has progressed, Maurice has been more impressed with Faulk’s game, so much so that he might work his way into the top six on a regular basis this season.

“I like his game,” Maurice said. “What he is very good at presents itself whether you’re playing a skilled team or a hard, grinding team. I haven’t seen any reason to think of him differently than a good, NHL defenseman. There just hasn’t been a hole.

“I’m almost moving to the point that you start thinking about this guy the way you thought about Jeff Skinner last year – just play him. Don’t worry about his age. Just play him.”

Ryan Murphy will make his way back in the lineup tonight, and he will be paired with Bryan Allen, a duo that Maurice has liked throughout camp because of how the two complement each other.

“They have each something to offer the other. I’ve liked Bryan Allen’s camp a lot,” Maurice said. “He’s a specific kind of presence out there, and he’s willing to take care of the people around him, so that’s a good guy for Murph to be on the ice with.”

As has been said before, wins and losses don’t matter in the preseason. But at 1-4, the Hurricanes would surely like to end the exhibition season on a good note.

“To be as good as we can be, we need to get out of our comfort level. And that means grinding and really going,” he said. “I haven’t given them a day off for a reason. I got some guys that are dragging and I know it, and I’m fine with that. We need to have all this grinding now.”

Here’s a look at the lines for tonight:

Ponikarovsky – Staal – Dalpe
Skinner – Ruutu – Stewart
Tlusty – Sutter – Dwyer
Bowman – Brent – Nash

Gleason – Faulk
Joslin – McBain
Allen – Murphy


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