RALEIGH, NC. - After a quick trip to Philadelphia for what wound up being just a team workout, the Carolina Hurricanes were back in the Triangle for a practice day Wednesday.
There was some obvious frustration about not playing Tuesday night in the City of Brotherly Love, however, Rod Brind'Amour chose his words carefully in regard to the situation.
"Is it hard to understand? Yes," the Metropolitan Division All-Star Coach started off with. "I didn't get any [explanation]. I was just told at 9:30 p.m. Monday that the game was off. Then I was told we could practice because our flight couldn't go out until 3 p.m. [Tuesday]. Then I woke up and was told that there was a basketball court [on the surface of the Wells Fargo Center]... It is what it is. We understand that these are tough times to navigate through and it doesn't always work out."
The league's official verbiage on the postponement was the standard "due to COVID-19 related issues", however, the Flyers not only had able bodies to play, they had more players available than they did when they played games both Thursday and Saturday. Philadelphia also held a team practice Tuesday morning.
Regardless, the Canes continued about their business, returning to Raleigh Tuesday afternoon and got back to business the next day.
Well, most of the Canes.
One glaring absence from their trip back was defenseman Jaccob Slavin, who unfortunately joined COVID Protocol during the team's short-lived trek north. Slavin will now miss at least the team's game Thursday against Columbus and Saturday afternoon against Vancouver. The absence gives opportunity to Brendan Smith, who slid in on the defense at Wednesday's practice. Playing alongside Ethan Bear, the top two pairs consisted of Brady Skjei with Tony DeAngelo, and Ian Cole with Brett Pesce.
First Day On The Job
While Slavin was able to return to North Carolina via a rental car on Tuesday, the team also gained an extra body, as new signee Jack LaFontaine arrived at Raleigh-Durham International Airport Tuesday night. Hours later he was on the ice for his first practice with the NHL roster.
Still clad in his maroon and gold University of Minnesota setup, the 24-year-old's first practice served as the latest stepping stone in a wild few days, which included playing a collegiate game Saturday, signing Sunday, having his first media availability and being assigned to the Taxi Squad Monday and a travel-filled day on Tuesday.
"Day one was great," he led off with when answering the first question presented to him. "The guys were unbelievable. There's a good mixture of young and old guys and it was fun to get out there. Hockey has been the easiest part of this process, so it was just nice and relaxing to get out there, feel the pace and get some shots."
Just in his second time meeting with the media LaFontaine showed a very calm, cool and collected presence, elaborating his thoughts eloquently and showing no signs of being lost in the moment.
"That's goaltending in a nutshell, right? It's between the ears," the young man continued. "Everyone has their own phrase, their own motto, their own slogan, whatever you want to call it. Everyone needs to play at a specific intensity number. Everyone's different, right? For me, it's all about being calm, having a controlled intensity. I'm different from Alex Lyon, I'm different from Frederik Andersen. It's all about getting to that number and performing."
Even now that he's here the path isn't directly clear for the team's newest netminder, who is awaiting his United States work visa - the first step in determining when he'll be available to play in a game.
Beyond Slavin being away from the club and LaFontaine's arrival, two additional notes from the midweek skate were that Antti Raanta (upper-body injury) was not present and neither was Seth Jarvis. This was a new development for the rookie winger, however, there doesn't appear to be cause for concern as his head coach shared that it was a "minor, minor, minor thing" that held him away and he didn't feel the need to have him out there just because.
The Canes meet the Blue Jackets tomorrow night at PNC Arena. The contest will be featured on ESPN+ and Hulu, so if you aren't attending, please make sure you're planned accordingly.
Worth A Click:
Practice Report: Back In The Swing
LaFontaine Signs: Why Now?
Canes Assign LaFontaine To Taxi Squad