Things are starting to get a little crazy as opening night approaches, so in the interest of posting a few updates from today’s practice, uh, today, we’re going to a bulleted format this time around. Hope you don’t mind. This could become a more regular occurrence during the regular season, depending on what’s going on with the rest of the site.
Joni Pitkanen practiced fully with the team today (without the gold non-contact jersey) for the first time this season. He said he felt pretty good, but the real test will come when he wakes up in the morning. He’s day-to-day at this point, with opening night still a possibility, but not a given.
Even if he’s healthy, there’s the matter of getting up to game speed in a matter of days, rather than the weeks an entire training camp provides. However, Pitkanen and the coaching staff don’t seem overly concerned. ”Because he’s such a strong and powerful skater, it’s actually a little bit easier for him than with a lot of other guys,” said Coach Paul Maurice.
Offseason signing Jay Harrison, winner of the training camp audition for the team’s seventh defenseman, is still around should the need arise.
We thought that Eric Staal hit a bit of a turning point towards improving his offensive consistency last season and that he would hit the ground running in 2009-10 after a few years of slowish starts. After looking good since the opening practice and scoring six points in three exhibition games, all signs point to a big start from No. 12.
”Personally I feel pretty good on the ice and have started to hit my spots and where I needed to be,” said Staal. “I feel stronger and I feel better on the ice than I did last year. The preseason is about trying to build that confidence, and I feel like I’ve got that.”
The Canes feel as though they’re ready following a shorter camp and just four exhibition games, which is good because they’ll get a doozy of an early test. They play two Stanley Cup favorites in the first two nights of the season – at home to Philadelphia on Friday and at a Boston team not exactly pleased with the way last season ended on Saturday.
”Two big, physical teams, and that’s a good way to get started,” said Maurice with as straight a face as he could manage.
“We don’t have a choice [but to be ready],” said Staal. “We’ll definitely get a good test Friday night in our building. We need to come out with that jump and fire, and I’m sure we will because a lot of guys are pretty pumped that training camp is over.”