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Special Teams the Focus of Day 3

Two practices bookend the 18th annual Caniac Carnival

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

On the third day of Carolina Hurricanes training camp, the team shuffled its groups and honed in on special teams in two practices that bookended the 18th annual Caniac Carnival.

The first group, which got on the ice around 10:30 a.m., was heavy on the "veterans" in camp. The focus: power play, led by assistant coach Rod Brind'Amour, and penalty kill, led by assistant coach Steve Smith.

In doing so, we got a glimpse at some early thinking for the team's power-play units. Elias Lindholm, Jordan Staal, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Justin Faulk comprised one. Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Justin Williams, Derek Ryan and Noah Hanifin formed another.

"I thought Roddy and Smitty had a good skate with the power play and penalty kill. A good segment, a good chunk of time spent on that," head coach Bill Peters said. "We know how important it is for the season, so we'll get started on it early."

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The Canes finished the 2016-17 season with the sixth-ranked penalty killing unit (84.2 percent), one that was tops in the league for much of the 82-game campaign. The power play finished the season ranked 21st at a 17.7 percent conversion rate.

The second group took the ice around 1:30 for an hour-long skate. It was the more prospect-heavy of the two halves, as Peters, his staff and the front office are still in the thick of the evaluation process.

"There are a lot of guys in this group … that are going to push a little bit here," Peters said. "We've got to make sure that we've got a good evaluation process so they have a fair chance."

In the first three days of camp, the Hurricanes have at least taken a surface tour of all elements of the game, laying the foundation for Monday, the beginning of the preseason schedule - and, in some cases, game action can serve as the best teaching tool.

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"You always want a little bit more practice time, but you're all in the same boat," Peters said. "There were already games last night."

The Hurricanes face off with the Sabres in Buffalo on Monday. A home-and-home, back-to-back set against Tampa Bay follows on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The first roster trimmings of training camp rolled in at the close of the third day, as the Canes returned forwards Stelio Mattheos, Morgan Geekie and Hudson Elynuk and defensemen Noah Carroll and Brendan De Jong to their respective junior clubs. Forward Martin Necas is now the lone 2017 draft pick remaining in camp, and it's expected that he'll be featured in multiple preseason games.

"Everyone who deserves an opportunity will get an opportunity," Peters said.

More cuts are inevitable in the coming weeks, and the decisions won't get any easier.

That's a good thing.

"The decisions at the end are going to be much harder. Guys who are NHL-ready are probably going to spend more time in the American Hockey League. That's going to be the reality of the situation, but it's also very competitive amongst the group," Peters said. "The players know that the right guys are going to end up on the team at the end of the day. The 23-man group that we break camp with are going to be the right 23. I can't tell you who they're going to be right now, but it's going to be the right guys."

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