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Notes from Week One of Informals

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes

The first week of informal practices at the RecZone is in the books.

With the main goal being to get the legs moving and the timing down after a long offseason, the scrimmages are clearly more pond hockey than serious in-season training. Just ask the players how seriously the take them, and they’ll give a not-so-serious answer.

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Nonetheless, there are obvious advantages to getting an early start, and if nothing else, they’ve been fun to watch. The practices are scheduled to go every weekday from Monday-Friday until training camp starts, with more and more players set to filter in as time goes on.

Here are some notes from the first week involving a few players we haven’t touched on yet:

Jamie McBain left last season’s exit interviews with the knowledge that his strong performance at the end of the year would give him a good chance of starting the following season with the Hurricanes. While General Manager Jim Rutherford has since publicly stated that McBain is all but assured a roster spot coming out of the gate, McBain’s preparation and mindset have not changed.

“You can never go in thinking you have a job, because a lot can change in training camp,” said McBain, who spent his summer in Minnesota training with a group of NHL’ers that included Zach Parise and Drew Stafford. “I’m still coming in with the mentality that I have to battle and prove myself.”

While McBain can seemingly be counted on for regular power play time, the exact magnitude of his role on defense has yet to be determined. The Canes could again lean on him heavily as they did towards the end of 2009-10, when he averaged over 25 minutes of ice time. However, the re-signing of Joe Corvo should give coach Paul Maurice the luxury of taking it easy on the 22-year-old in what’s expected to be his first full NHL season.

Then again, if McBain regularly performs like he did down the stretch, there’s no reason to hold him back.

Patrick Dwyer is used to battling it out in training camp, but never with this much NHL experience already under his belt.

The 27-year-old American Hockey League veteran saw his first extended taste of the NHL last year, appearing in 58 games with the Hurricanes, mostly as the third-line center.   While he wasn’t counted on to be a big-time scorer – he notched 12 points last season – his speed, hustle and penalty killing help make him an asset and a candidate to earn a job again next season.

Whether that spot would be at center or wing remains to be seen. Despite his usual role from last year, Dwyer has mostly played wing throughout his career. That’s where he may end up should more natural pivots such as Jon Matsumoto or Riley Nash also impress.

“I spent some time trying to adjust (to center) last season and have tried to do that again throughout the summer,” said Dwyer. “I’ve really been working on my face-offs and trying to prepare myself for both positions.”

Much as it was for McBain, who did not attend a Hurricanes training camp for three years after being drafted, an appearance in Raleigh was a long-time coming for defenseman Kyle Lawson.

The 23-year-old seventh-round pick of the team back in 2005 recently completed a four-year college career at Notre Dame. Prior to this past summer’s rookie conditioning camp, he had never been to town in his five years as part of the organization.

“It’s been awesome,” said Lawson, who plans to head back to South Bend to catch his alma mater's' season opener in football next week. “To be honest I really didn’t know much about things down here besides getting some updates every now and then, so to finally come down here and get to know everybody has been a joy to experience.”

After signing a two-year contract with the Hurricanes in March, Lawson, winner of the CCHA’s top defensive defenseman award in 2008-09, appeared his first 10 professional games with Albany prior to the end of the River Rats’ regular season.

“It was an eye-opener to come in and see how hard everyone worked and it was a little nervy at first, especially since they were on a playoff run and you didn’t want to get in the way,” he said.

The job of a backup goaltender is never easy for a player of any age, but the job presents unique challenges for up-and-comers like Justin Peters.

On the one hand, Peters may not have much left to prove at the AHL level, where he gained All-Star recognition for an outstanding 2009-10 season. However, it can also be difficult for anyone to further develop those skills in a limited role behind an incumbent work horse like Cam Ward.

Presented with each of those different outcomes, Peters has a clear preference.

“I want to be in the NHL, and that’s the bottom line,” he said, echoing McBain’s sentiments of not taking a potential roster spot for granted. “I’m coming into camp with the attitude of hoping to make the team and put myself in the best position to succeed.”

Peters, who will turn 24 on Monday, proved capable in his first nine NHL appearances last season, posting a 6-3-0 record while splitting time with Manny Legace.

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