In a camp where five defensemen are competing for three open spots behind Joe Corvo, Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen in the Canes’ top six, it appears that Frantisek Kaberle and Dennis Seidenberg have put themselves on the inside track to claim two of them.
Both players are having excellent training camps so far and have been used together on the point in the Canes’ second power play unit at this week’s practices. They will also play together in Thursday night’s exhibition game in Nashville.
Kaberle, whose name has been mentioned in trade rumors ever since GM Jim Rutherford indicated he wants to trade a defenseman, has looked good enough in exhibition games that he may not only stay, but play a prominent role as well.
“I’m very pleased with Frank Kaberle’s camp,” said Rutherford. “He’s the guy that heard the most rumors about being the odd guy out, but in fairness to him this is the first training camp he has been healthy since we won the Cup. He’s back to where he was in ’06 when he was really good for us,” added Rutherford.
“I think that Frank has been one of our top defensemen in camp,” said coach Peter Laviolette. “He came off a year where he was banged up a little bit and never felt 100 percent. He had an opportunity, and he came to camp in great shape. It’s been hard not to notice him in a positive way on the ice. He’s played very well so far.”
Kaberle himself admits to not feeling like himself ever since he underwent shoulder surgery after the Canes’ Stanley Cup victory in the 2006. He played just 27 games the following season and saw his offensive numbers dip significantly last season from the 44 he scored in 2005-06.
“The last couple of years it’s been tough with my injuries,” said Kaberle. “With my strength, it wasn’t even close to what I’m at now. It’s a big difference.”
While Kaberle’s impressive camp has surprised many, Rutherford
said he expected Seidenberg to make a serious run at the top six from the beginning. Although Seidenberg has been a healthy scratch 27 times since joining the team as the seventh defenseman in January of 2007, he’ll get his opportunity now that Glen Wesley and Bret Hedican have gone.
“I would say he had one of those spots coming in, and you just watch for a guy like that to see where he’s at,” said Rutherford
. “He’s come in and he was ready to play as he always is and he’s played really well. He can skate, move the puck and he can be physical.”
“Last year I wanted to be in the top six and I think I played well when I was in the lineup,” said Seidenberg. “I just have to stay healthy now and be consistent night in and night out. With those two guys gone, I think it’s definitely a chance for me to step up and grab a regular spot.”
If Kaberle and Seidenberg are indeed leading the pack of players for a regular spot in the Hurricanes’ lineup, and it seems that they are, that leaves Niclas Wallin, Anton Babchuk and Jo
sef Melichar to compete for the sixth and seventh spots. With Babchuk and Wallin both missing significant time due to injury so far, who leads that race remains to be seen.