Every day that the Carolina Hurricanes continue to practice at PNC Arena is one day closer to the return of hockey.
In fact, we're now exactly a week away from the Canes' one and only dress rehearsal prior to the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, an afternoon exhibition match against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, July 29 in Toronto.
"To get to where you need to go, you've got to push," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said after his team's eighth day on the ice. "You have to be at the top of your game."
Here are the top storylines, news nuggets and quotes from Wednesday at the rink.
Practice Makes Perfect
For the second time in Phase 3 training camp, the Canes practiced in one group split into red and white designations. A few drills to get the legs moving and hands feeling the puck preceded a loose scrimmage with some specific scenarios - namely special teams - built in. A neutral-zone game and some conditioning skating put a bow on another solid hour of on-ice work.
"They want to play. Everybody just wants to get to it," Brind'Amour said. "Until you start playing, you really don't know where you're at. Just continually work on stuff, sharpening it up. That's the plan."
Brind'Amour and his coaching staff laid out a specific plan for the two weeks of practice prior to departure for Toronto.
Video: "Everybody just wants to get to it."
"The first week was more training camp tone in the sense of what you were covering. It was very similar to what you would cover in September in a regular season. Going over your stuff, how you want to play and establishing that," Brind'Amour said. "The change now is, as we move into it, is dialing more into your opponent."
Svechnikov Named Chiasson Award Winner
Andrei Svechnikov was voted by his teammates as the winner of the 2019-20 Steve Chiasson Award, which is given annually to the Canes player who "best exemplifies determination and dedication while proving to be an inspiration to his teammates through his performance and approach to the game."
As Vice President of Communications and Team Services Mike Sundheim noted, the winner of the Chiasson Award has clearly earned the "utmost respect" from his teammates. This is typically a veteran player; of the 19 previous Chiasson Award winners, none was younger than 27 (Eric Staal, 2011-12).
Svechnikov, now the youngest to receive the award, is just 20 years old.
"He's a guy that comes to the rink every day with the right mindset. He just wants to get better every day," Warren Foegele said. "You respect someone who is willing to put in that much effort. Even after games, he's here shooting pucks. He's just trying to get better. Having someone like that, it pushes you."
Video: "Everyone knows it's going to be harder."
"Everybody loves him. It's that simple," Brind'Amour said. "He's done everything you could ask of a young kid. Forget about how he plays - that's the icing on the cake. He's a really great kid. He's got the respect of everybody around here."
Hamilton Leaves Practice Early, Decision on Pesce Still Pending
Dougie Hamilton, who missed the remainder of the 2019-20 regular season after suffering a broken fibula in his left leg in mid-January, left Wednesday's practice early in some visible discomfort, and he was followed to the dressing room by Canes' Head Athletic Trainer Doug Bennett.
Unfortunately, that's all we know, as "clubs are not permitted to disclose player injury and/or illness information" in this return to play process.
So, Hamilton was unable to finish practice, and we'll have to wait and see on his status moving forward.
Elsewhere on the blue line, the Canes soon have a decision to make on Brett Pesce, who remains sidelined after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in March. His expected recovery time was pegged at four to six months, putting him in position to return for a typical September training camp. In 2020, though, September falls smack dab in the middle of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For him to be eligible to return in the postseason, Pesce would have to be included on the Canes' 31-player Phase 4 roster.
"We're buying as much time as we can on that," Brind'Amour said. "He's on track for what was supposed to happen, I think, so that's still a ways away. ... There are a lot of factors you have to weigh out on this."
Keane Draws In
Defenseman Joey Keane, who was named to the AHL's 2019-20 All-Rookie Team, joined the Canes on the ice today wearing No. 44. Keane was not included on the team's initial 29-player return to play roster and will likely not make the trip to Toronto, but being able to log a week's worth of on- and off-ice training with the big club is a plus for his development.
"You want to get these guys understanding first what it's like to be a professional and, more importantly, what we expect and what we're about," Brind'Amour said last week. "You can't really do that if you're not here."
No Fans? No Problem
I wrote on Tuesday about how playoff hockey will look and feel without fans and how the Canes are preparing for that stark reality.
Foegele reminded us today that he played in a game sans fans in Jan. 2018 when inclement winter weather - "like an inch of snow," Foegele said, but it was around half a foot - forced the Charlotte Checkers to host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers behind closed doors.
Video: "Having someone like that pushes you."
"The city kind of shut down. No fans were allowed to come to our game," Foegele recalled. "It's a little bit weird for the first minute, but … it's a hockey game. Music is still playing. When you score, the buzzer and tunes are going. … I don't think it will be that big of an adjustment, to be honest."
Make some noise!