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Preseason Gameday: Sabres vs. Hurricanes

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

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SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. - The Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres squared off in a neutral-site exhibition match-up last night, and tonight they'll do it all over again, this time in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, at Essar Centre, the home of the Ontario Hockey League's Soo Greyhounds.

Tonight is a homecoming for Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis, who was born in the town and played junior hockey with the Greyhounds.

"It's always good to get back home. You have a chance to see family and friends," he said. "This is a city that was good to me and gave me a chance to work on my career, whether it was in youth hockey or junior hockey. To bring an NHL game back to this market is something the town is really excited about."

It's also a homecoming for forward Sergey Tolchinsky, who dazzled fans in three seasons with the Greyhounds from 2012-15.

"I'm really excited. I don't even have the right words for it," said Tolchinsky, whose name graces the Greyhounds Wall of Fame outside of the locker room. "It's just nice to be back. I can't wait to play in front of my Canadian hometown crowd. It's awesome."

"I talked to Sergey last year and said, 'We play an exhibition game in the Soo next year. Do you want to play?' And he was like, 'Oh yeah,'" Francis recalled. "You'll see it tonight. He was a huge fan-favorite here. He's just exciting, and every time he touches the puck the building gets excited. If anybody touches Sergey, the building gets a little frustrated and mad. It will be a great night for him and the fans to see him back on the ice."

"I think it's going to be great. We're back in the house that Sergey built, so we'll make sure he gets enough ice time to be a factor in the game tonight," head coach Bill Peters said. "I think he's going to have a lot of jump, and I think he's going to want to put on a show. What he has to do is make sure he plays the game properly and not be high-risk. If he just uses his skill and teammates, he'll be successful."

Tolchinsky will be skating on the right wing alongside center Lucas Wallmark and left winger Warren Foegele. Elsewhere among the forward lines, the Hurricanes have quite the veteran presence, with the first three lines potentially being utilized on opening night.

"It's an important game for some of those guys, just to make sure they're holding onto roles," Peters said. "We should have a little more zone time and puck possession this evening."

As Cam Ward did last night, Peters said Eddie Lack would start and go the distance in net tonight.




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