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Canes Begin Final Prep for Opening Night

Week of practice leads in to home opener on Oct. 7

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

Is it October yet? Yes, yes it is.

And just prior to the turn of the calendar, the Carolina Hurricanes drew the curtain on their exhibition season with a 3-1 win over the Washington Capitals.

"I thought preseason went really well," defenseman Brett Pesce said. "Personally and as a team, we really got better every day."

The Canes finished with a 5-2 record in the preseason. And while exhibition results might not necessarily be indicative of regular-season results, the way in which the Hurricanes won games - establishing leads, closing games out in the third period, being strong defensively - are good habits to take into the games that count.

"It's good to win, but just looking around, guys are working hard and habits are good," Pesce said. "You just see how good we can be. I think we're really fast this year. It's awesome to see."

The league opens the 2017-18 regular season on Wednesday, but the Hurricanes won't play their first game until Saturday. That means ample practice time, which began with a special teams-focused practice that lasted over an hour on Sunday morning.

Video: Bill Peters: "Make Some Adjustments"

"We spent a good chunk of change on the power play, which we needed to. We'll continue to work on it and make some adjustments," head coach Bill Peters said. "We'll see what we liked, what we didn't like and what needs to improve."

Though the exhibition season has concluded, the Hurricanes technically remain in training camp with 27 players in Raleigh and final 23-man rosters due on Tuesday evening. The Canes will then practice as a team on Thursday and Friday before Opening Night on Saturday.

"It's huge having this full week," Pesce said. "We can continue to work on our systems and special teams and key on the things we need to really be good at to be successful."

Among the names still in camp include defenseman Haydn Fleury and forward Martin Necas. Fleury figures to fit in as an option for the third pair alongside Trevor van Riemsdyk.

"I think [Fleury] has made good first passes, he's skated, he's defended, he's been hard at the net," Peters said. "His maturation as a pro stared in November or December of last year in the American Hockey League, and it's just continued on. That's what you expect. He's a high draft pick. We did the right thing being patient with him, and now it's his time to get in and play."

Klas Dahlbeck and even Trevor Carrick, one of the six assigned to Charlotte in the latest round of training camp cuts, could also capably step in to the team's defense. That's depth.

"It's unbelievable," Pesce said. "I played with Trev in college, and he's an unbelievable player. Fleury has really taken a step. He looks great. It's really exciting for everyone."

"We've got D who can play and D we are very comfortable with down in Charlotte, also," Peters said.

Video: Jordan Staal: "The way we want to play"

The Canes knew Necas, selected 12th overall in this summer's draft, would be a skilled forward. What they didn't expect was for him to make the roster decision so difficult in year one, but his speed, skill and smarts have proven an asset already. Now the question becomes which league would most benefit his development.

"He's done well, but now it's going to go to another level," Peters said. "I think he can play right now, but the question is can he play right now and get enough quality minutes to justify staying here?"

With veteran forward Lee Stempniak still shelved with an undisclosed injury and looking unlikely for Opening Night, it's possible that Necas will see enough playing time in the interim. The Canes could opt to give Necas a look in the first nine games of the regular season, which would preserve the first year of his three-year, entry-level contract.

While the Canes could delay the decision on Necas, one they are expected to make this week is that of the captaincy. Carolina has played without a captain since the departure of Eric Staal in February 2016.

"We will have one before the season starts," Peters reiterated.

All that's left, then, is to drop the puck.

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