The theme of training camp thus far has been aggressiveness – head coach Paul Maurice said as much after the first day on the ice. Expect to see much of the same in Buffalo tonight, as a group of 20 players heads north for the first preseason game of the 2011-12 campaign.
Though the team is only a few days deep into training camp, they are well-aware of the focus. Tim Brent
looks to take that message into tonight’s matchup.
“That word (aggressive) has been thrown around quite a bit, and that’s what I’ve got out of it – that we want to be as aggressive as we can at every point on the ice,” he said. “We want to set a tone for preseason and gain momentum, so that we are ready come opening night.”
Brent will be centering the second line, flanked by Drayson Bowman
and Patrick Dwyer
. Skating on the second line should help Bowman’s chances to put the puck in the back of the net, something he said the coaches want to see more of from him.
As Maurice noted after Ryan Murphy
’s first on-ice session with the Canes, Bryan Allen
and Murphy will be paired on defense. Tonight, they will be the top D-line.
“It’s not really viewed as an exhibition game,” Allen said. “You bring as much intensity and passion as you would a regular season game. It’s time to just turn it on.”
Allen certainly provides a foil to Murphy. Matching up a big, bone-crunching veteran defenseman with a much smaller, offensive-minded young guy in an aggressive system might just provide for an interesting dynamic.
“When you have that mentality (being aggressive) and to a man, everyone plays to their ability and that commitment to that aggressiveness, it’s a big step forward,” Allen said.Brian Boucher
will get the start in net tonight, as planned. All the young forwards jockeying for the precious few roster spots available – Bowman, Zac Dalpe
, Zach Boychuk
, Riley Nash
and Jerome Samson
– are all in the lineup. After many of them had strong outings yesterday in the Red-White game, the coaching staff will be looking for them to make another statement tonight.
“They were the players that took advantage of what is a scrimmage out there, and I thought they were the best players in the scrimmage today,” Maurice said yesterday following the game. “Tomorrow night they’ll get a chance to do it for real.”
Maurice hit on the same points today after the morning skate.
"We've got five or six guys that are trying to make an impression against NHL players, and it's their time individually," he said. "This is a real important test for these guys. What they are trying to do now is earn exhibition games."
Though tonight’s game most likely won’t be as high scoring as yesterday’s intra-squad matchup, the intensity will be just as high, if not higher.
“We want to be aggressive. That’s the theme,” Brent said. “We want to dictate the pace, and dictate what’s going to happen in every aspect of the game. That’s our focus.”
Here’s a look at the lineup for the Canes tonight:
Dalpe – Sutter – LaRoseLooking Back at the Red-White Game
Bowman – Brent – Dwyer
Tlusty – Matsumoto – Stewart
Boychuk – Nash – Samson
Allen – Murphy
Harrison – McBain
Faulk – Krueger
It was probably no surprise to anyone that the best players in the Red-White game yesterday were the young guys that are fighting for roster spots.
“The players that we thought should be good in this game were,” Maurice said. “Nobody moved themselves in any one direction one way or the other. The four or five guys competing for those jobs up front showed some jump.”
Bowman’s jump included throwing the body around, as he showed he wasn’t afraid to finish any check, even in a team scrimmage.
“The younger guys can’t afford to waste the opportunity,” he said. “So, you try to be aware of who you’re hitting, but at the same time you try not to let up.”
Bowman notched two goals in Team White’s 10-7 win over Team Red. Surely keeping tabs on his competition, Boychuk added another.
“This is a big year for me,” he said. “The last two years have been good for experience to get games up in Carolina. This year, I feel like I’m ready to make that step and be a full-timer here.”
Now would be as good of a time as ever to make that jump as Boychuk is heading into the final season of his three-year, entry-level contract.
“Those two years in the minors were huge for me in terms of my confidence,” he said. “Now that I know that I can contribute and play at this level, I just got to make it happen.”