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It's time to play hockey.
The Carolina Hurricanes open their seven-game preseason slate tonight in Washington, the front half of a back-to-back set that continues in Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.
"I expect there to be lots of energy. I expect it to be simple," Canes assistant coach (and acting head coach for tonight, at least) Steve Smith said. "Get pucks in, get pucks out, do some forechecking, try to get our guys running some routes early. They seem to be grasping the concepts of what we're trying to do here early in camp."
You play games to win games, but these first two preseason tilts are perhaps the best evaluation tool the coaching staff and front office have had thus far in training camp. Certain players are going to get certain opportunities in order to see how they respond.
"Guys are going to make mistakes, and we're going to find out which guys can handle pressure situations," Smith said. "We're going to find out guys who can think the game, play with some pace and keep up to some pace."
Video: Steve Smith: "Continue to promote the same things"
One such opportunity tonight is Sergey Tolchinksky skating on the wing with Joakim Nordstrom and Jordan Staal.
"I think it's a real good opportunity for Sergey. He certainly has deserved it. He's come into camp in very, very good shape. He's worked hard every single day, and he's competed hard," Smith said. "He's been given an opportunity with two pretty good players. I don't think there's anyone in the league that wouldn't feel blessed to have an opportunity to play with Jordan Staal. That will do nothing but elevate Sergey's game."
Elsewhere up front, power forwards Nicolas Roy and Julien Gauthier are paired together on a line with Clark Bishop.
"Two big, strong guys. I'm not sure I'd want to play too many minutes against those guys. If they get physical, they could take over a period or a game," Smith said of Roy and Gauthier. "They're two guys who shoot the puck really well, and they process the game fairly well at the junior level. Hopefully they'll continue to process the game quickly at this level. For them to have success, they're going to have to get physical early, get pucks to the net and go to the net."
Eddie Lack and Alex Nedeljkovic will split goaltending duties tonight, with Lack playing the first two periods and Nedeljkovic playing in the third.
With just over 50 players still in camp, expect to see two different lineups on Monday and Tuesday, Smith said.
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