Carolina Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice made it clear that there wasn’t a lot that he liked in last night’s preseason home opener against the Nashville Predators.
Luckily, when the team is still in the player evaluation stage, results don’t matter much. Still, wins, losses and chemistry of line combinations will certainly come into play in the coming week, especially as the roster continues to be trimmed in preparation for the start of the regular season.
“We’ll move to that after tomorrow’s game,” Maurice said. “At some point we have to start assessing the lines and D-pairings. I’m still not 100% sold on the way they’re shaking out now.
“I didn’t think we did very many things well,” he said of last night’s 3-2 loss. “We had five puck-moving defensemen in the lineup last night, and we didn’t move the puck.”
Defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who was playing in his first preseason game with his new team, agreed that defensive positioning as a group wasn’t up to par.
“I thought we had a good first period, and then we kind of slowed down,” he said. “I think we still have a few holes. Mistakes are going to happen, but we’re going to work on it in these four games we have left in the preseason.”
One player who did stand out last night was forward Brett Sutter
. After coming over from Calgary in November of last year, Sutter spent the majority of the season in Charlotte. He played in one game for the Canes, earning just 4:09 of ice time. Last night, he played nearly 15 minutes and was noticeable all over the ice.
“He looks quicker this year. He’s a fit man, and he’s got some grit and some bite that you would expect from that name,” Maurice said. “For me, he’s working his way up, and he’ll be here a little longer.”
With the injury bug floating around, Sutter might be making a case to play on opening night. If he isn’t in the lineup come October 7, he is certainly positioning himself to be an early call-up.
“It’s going to be very difficult for a player to beat out the 12 we have penciled in right now,” Maurice said. “But what he’s [Sutter] trying to do is get as close as he can to that number 13. After last night, he’s definitely moving toward it.”
Another player who received high marks, though he’s not necessarily fighting for a spot on the team, was forward Alexei Ponikarovsky. His two early-period goals gave the Canes offensive life and a big presence around the net.
“He learned some really good things in LA being in that defensive role, and that added to his game,” Maurice said. “But when he was in Toronto, he thought of himself as a guy that could score some goals.
“I want him shooting the puck and driving the net. Then I want Staal playing off him.”
Though not finalized yet, Maurice said tomorrow’s game group for Charlotte will be similar to that of last night. Cam Ward
is slated to play the full 60 minutes in net, while Brian Boucher
will see a full game in Winnipeg on Wednesday.INJURY UPDATE
- Tim Brent left the game with a lower-body injury last night, what turned out to be a cut. He received stitches on the surface, and is being held out of skates now to guard against infection.
- Tuomo Ruutu has a minor lower-body injury, and did not skate today. “There’s really nothing with that," Maurice said.
- Patrick Dwyer and Chad LaRose skated in the second session today. “These are all really minor things that we’re being careful with,” Maurice said.