The Carolina Hurricanes are gearing up for their final two exhibition matches, the first of which is tonight in Columbus followed by a Friday evening game at PNC Arena against Buffalo.
And they’re doing so without a number of top players.
Alexander Semin (upper-body), Tuomo Ruutu (lower-body) and Tim Gleason (upper-body) have all missed practice time this week with injuries, and they will not be in the lineup against Columbus. Elias Lindholm (upper-body) has not played since the team’s preseason opener last Wednesday, and he continues to be sidelined.
“It’s what it is, I guess,” Canes head coach Kirk Muller said. “It’d be nice if you had everything in sync this weekend with your lines and D-pairs. But injuries are a part of the game, and you have to ad-lib it.”
Jeff Skinner is the newest addition to the injured list, as he will be held aside with a lower-body concern. Muller said the 21-year-old forward is doubtful for the team’s preseason finale on Friday.
“We just want to be smart and not push him right now with these exhibition games,” Muller said.
With the team’s injury list swelling, opportunity knocks for a number of players still fighting for a roster spot. Muller said earlier this week that final cuts will likely be made over the weekend.
“We haven’t made all the final cuts, so there are opportunities for guys to keep playing and keep battling for opportunities,” he said. “We have two games left to do it, so we’ll fine-tune things and make the most of it.”
Among those receiving enhanced playing time include Chris Terry, who slides up to a first-line wing position in Semin’s absence, and Jeremy Welsh, who enters the lineup with Skinner out.
Cam Ward is slated to start in net against the Blue Jackets. Muller said he will make a decision on Friday’s starting goaltender following tonight’s game.
Muller teased a varied look on the back-end in the final two preseason games. Mike Komisarek and Matt Corrente are the uninjured extras for tonight’s match.
“You’ll see a whole different look tomorrow night,” Muller said. “We’re not totally set on our whole roster right now.”
A focal point in practice this week has been special teams, and though it’s impossible to predict how much of a role the power play and penalty kill will play in tonight’s game, there are certain aspects Muller will monitor.
“[On the power play] it’s just chemistry and execution and getting that killer instinct to score,” he said. “In penalty kill, it’s finding the right combos of guys and working on the details.”
Compared to last week’s slate of preseason games, which was more geared toward player evaluation, these final two exhibitions give Muller and his staff a chance to see what needs some last-minute tweaking before Detroit comes to Raleigh on Oct. 4.
“Tonight it’s just about getting sharper in some areas,” Muller said. “It’s a good game to fine-tune stuff and see what areas guys have connected on … and what areas we have to spend a little bit more time on in the week before opening night.”