What was originally scheduled to be two separate group practices morphed into an intrasquad Grit vs. Grind scrimmage on Monday morning.
With 39 players still in training camp, Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind'Amour saw today as an opportunity to get a glimpse of his players in a more game-like setting than what's simulated in drills.
"We were debating what to do with the numbers we had. We figured it'd be better to scrimmage them and see if we could see some of the systems stuff kicking in," he said. "I knew the intensity wasn't going to be there. It never is when you scrimmage like that. I liked the fact that I saw some of the guys are getting what we're trying to get out of training camp to this point."
Even in a scrimmage, the physicality and compete of a game won't be replicated. There are players competing for roster spots on the team, yes, but teammates don't want to injure one another; hits aren't as bone-crunching and slap shots aren't as screaming as they will be come Oct. 4.
"You can always be better. We had some good things out there, but it's a little different than an actual game," Sebastian Aho said. "It's been a lot of hard work and skating. We've been doing good. We have outworked other teams in games. That's been a clear message for everyone, that we have to be the hardest working team."
The scrimmage was rather free-flowing, but at certain times, the head coach would signal for power plays for either side. Team Grind had a particularly potent power-play group that featured Dougie Hamilton and Justin Faulk on the blue line and Martin Necas, Aho and Teuvo Teravainen up front.
Valentin Zykov scored a pair of power-play goals for Team Grit in the span of about 15 elapsed seconds of scrimmage time. First, he banged in his own rebound on the doorstep. Then, he had room down the wing on a rush and sniped a shot home.
"He has been really good, and he was good again today doing what he does," Brind'Amour said. "One of the things I like about him is that he knows what he does. He gets around the net and understands what he has to do there."
Zykov is square in the mix of young talent vying for a limited number of roster spots with the big club, and he's expected to be in the lineup for the Canes on Tuesday in Nashville.
"They've all been making it tough. We've got four or five guys, in my opinion, who are pushing to get in, and there might only be one or two of those spots available," Brind'Amour said. "Nothing has been decided yet. We've got three games left. We'll take it one game at a time and see who earns the next one. Hopefully a week from now, it will be a little clearer."
The roster for Tuesday's preseason game in Nashville will closely resemble the group that traveled to Tampa Bay a week ago. It's a young contingency, a final chance for some teetering on the fringe to make lasting impressions and perhaps earn themselves another handful of days in camp.
"It's going to be similar to game one, in a way. Let's see the young guys," Brind'Amour said. "Nothing has been decided … and I don't think it will be for another couple of games, anyway."