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Canes Building Off Early Preseason Victories

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

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It doesn't mean anything in the standings, but the Carolina Hurricanes are 2-0 to begin their seven-game exhibition schedule.

The preseason exists as an evaluation tool and is used to fine-tune certain aspects of systems and player conditioning before the regular season begins. But the early results are nice, too.

The Hurricanes topped the Washington Capitals 2-1 in overtime and bested the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in their first preseason action this week.

"What I really liked about the first two games was the energy we brought," Hurricanes assistant coach Steve Smith said. "There were some mistakes made ... but they made up for it with hard work. The guys really battled hard."

"[Preseason games] are good to get the timing back. There are always hiccups in those games," Jordan Staal said. "The physicality, you don't practice that too much. Once you get into a game and start pushing guys around, it's definitely a different dynamic."

Video: Jordan Staal: "Trying to get better"

A certain bright spot was the goaltending of Cam Ward and Eddie Lack. Each played the first two periods of their respective games - Lack in Washington and Ward in Tampa Bay - and each made 16 saves on 16 shots.

"They both have obviously made a real concerted effort to get into shape in the offseason. They're both really fit, and they look confident right now. Fitness and confidence come hand-in-hand," Smith said. "They know it's a big year. There are big expectations for them and big expectations for all of us."

After the first day off from camp on Wednesday, the Canes - split into two groups - got back on the ice Thursday morning for a near hour-long practice plus dedicated special teams work.

"You want to continuously get better," Jeff Skinner said. "You want to work hard and get yourself ready conditioning-wise."

Video: Jeff Skinner: "A lot of new faces"

"We're working on things and trying to get a fluid game going," Staal said. "It's definitely headed in the right direction with the way we've played in the last couple of games."

Aho and Teravainen Have Arrived

Fresh off the World Cup of Hockey, forwards Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen arrived in Raleigh last Friday.

"It wasn't that good of a tournament for [Team Finland], but it was good experience," Aho said. "It was the world's best players, so it was tough competition."

"It was a little disappointing tournament for us, but it was good experience playing with the best players in the world," Teravainen said. "You get some good games right at the start of the season. It just didn't bounce our way. For myself, I think it was good to get the legs going and get some experience."

The Finnish duo first hit the ice with the Hurricanes on Monday morning, prior to the team leaving for its first preseason games. Aho and Teravainen remained back in Raleigh and rejoined the group on the ice on Thursday. Their Hurricanes preseason debuts are nearing, likely sometime this weekend.

"I think they're ready to play. They had really good World Cups. They both played well," Smith said. "We expect big things from them."

Video: Steve Smith: "He'll be the key component"

On Thursday, the two forwards joined center Elias Lindholm on a line, a trio with which the Canes' coaching staff wants to experiment.

"I just try to have fun and do my best every day," Aho said. "I just try to play my best and show that I'm a good player."

"It's a good chance for me to step up," Teravainen said. "It's a new start for me, and I like this chance to play and help this team out. It's a good, young team, so I'm excited about it."

Peters Inbound

Team Canada could potentially secure the World Cup of Hockey title tonight in Toronto, in which case Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters - who is currently assisting on Mike Babcock's staff - could be back in Raleigh in time for Friday's preseason tilt against Tampa Bay.

But don't expect him behind the bench just yet.

"I think he said he wanted to watch it from above the first time just to get a handle on the group," Smith explained.


→ Defenseman Ryan Murphy was slated to play in Tampa Bay on Tuesday night but was scratched, and he didn't skate today, either. That's because he's got flu-like symptoms, per Smith. He was "off-campus" today doing a work-out, and the team expects him back on the ice on Friday.

Camp roster now stands at 51 after the team returned forwards Janne Kuokkanen and Nicolas Roy to their respective junior clubs. After Friday's game, the Canes will depart on a three-game road trip that will take them through Minnesota, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and that will be Peters' first good look at who remains in camp.

→ We're officially 14 days from Opening Night, which takes place for the Hurricanes on Oct. 13 in Winnipeg.

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