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Preseason Gameday: Lightning vs. Hurricanes

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

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When the Carolina Hurricanes play their first of two preseason games at PNC Arena tonight, a rather experienced lineup will take the ice.

Every forward except for two - Sebastian Aho, who is projected to make the team, and Lucas Wallmark, who will play in North America this year - have prior NHL experience. And all defensemen save Haydn Fleury, who is turning pro this season, have logged games in the NHL.

"A few more of the guys we predict to be in the lineup will play tonight," assistant coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "We'll see how it all jells. That's the step we're looking for, to see who plays well with who."

There's the trio of Aho, Elias Lindholm and Teuvo Teravainen, something the coaching staff has eyed since the summer.

"It's still early, and we've got a couple guys who just came to the team. We're going to see what they're all about in a game," Brind'Amour said. "Obviously we've seen them practice pretty good, so hopefully it translates to the real thing."

In limited practice time, the Finnish duo of Aho and Teravainen has impressed.

"They're extremely skilled," Brind'Amour said. "They move the puck around really well. High skill level and high hockey sense. It should be exciting to watch this year."

Video: Rod Brind'Amour on game against Lightning

The time has finally come for Andrej Nestrasil, who will dress for the Canes tonight for the first time since suffering a fractured vertebra in Toronto on Feb. 25.

Nestrasil flashed his signature toothless grin when asked about getting back into game action.

"I'm sure once the puck is dropped, I'm really going to enjoy being out there," he said. "It's been really good the last couple of days, and I've felt really good on the ice. Obviously a game is a little different, but that's why we have these exhibition games, so you can get back at it. I'm really looking forward to it."

It's been a long and informative road to recovery for Nestrasil, and he's been raring to go since the first day of training camp.

"I really tried to stay positive and learn along the way. It was an interesting process, all the stuff I went through and had to do, all the different things throughout the rehab that you wouldn't picture would be part of a workout for a professional athlete," he said. "It's been long. It's been seven months and six days now. I'm ready to get over it."

Video: Andrej Nestrasil: "Looking forward to it"

"He's been ready to go since day one. He's been telling us every day that he didn't want to wear the yellow jersey," Brind'Amour said. "He's ready to go. You've got to take the safety precautions first and get him a few practices under his belt, and we'll see how he makes out."

Nestrasil will skate on line with Wallmark and Raffi Torres, who is in camp on a professional tryout.

"I honestly feel a little better out there, but I think it's got a lot to do being here for my third year. I'm finally comfortable being in this league and around all these guys," Nestrasil said. "I've been feeling really well on and off the ice. Hopefully I can bring it when the season starts."

On defense, Fleury is drawing in to his first preseason action after suffering a lower-body injury during the first game of the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich.

"It's been tough for him because he's been hurt," Brind'Amour said. "He really hasn't gotten in the mix yet. I know the organization expects big things out of him, so hopefully we see that."

Eddie Lack and Michael Leighton will be the Hurricanes' two goaltenders tonight, but there was no indication on how they might be utilized.

"That is above my pay grade," Brind'Amour quipped. "I don't know how they're doing that."

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