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The Carolina Hurricanes will host the Washington Capitals in their final game of the exhibition season on Friday, and the team will ice at lineup that could be fairly close to what we'll see less than a week from now in Winnipeg on opening night.
It's as much of a dress rehearsal scenario as is possible at this stage, when some final player evaluations have to be made. After a round of cuts on Thursday, the team's training camp roster now sits at 32 players, and at least nine more players will have to be cut by end-of-day Tuesday.
"Today is a big day, and every day is a big day this time of year, whether they realize it or not," head coach Bill Peters said. "You don't know when your opportunity is going to come."
One opportunity has come for Lucas Wallmark, who will center Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg on the Canes' fourth line tonight.
"Real smart player, real responsible, two-way guy," Peters said of the Swedish center. "You can play him against anybody, and he makes more plays than you think, subtle, little plays."
Elsewhere up front, winger Lee Stempniak, who has skated on a line with Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask for much of the preseason, will get a look on the right side alongside Jordan Staal and Joakim Nordstrom. Phil Di Giuseppe will play right wing with Skinner and Rask, reuniting one of last season's most potent offensive threats.
"We want to make sure we've had enough different line combinations at this time of the year," Peters said.
Another opportunity is available for defenseman Roland McKeown, who will pair with Noah Hanifin. Right-shooting blue liner Ryan Murphy is expected to miss three to four weeks with a lower-body injury, Peters said, which opens the door for McKeown, another right shot.
"I liked Roly in the game against Buffalo in the Soo. I thought he played real well and earned the opportunity to play tonight," Peters said. "We would love, in a perfect world, for him to open the season in Charlotte in the American League as a first-year D-man. … We'll see if we can't work towards making that happen, but his job is to make sure we have to keep him."
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