After 10-days on the road logging nearly 10,000 miles, it is great to get back to South Florida. Our trip provided an excellent opportunity for our team to get to know one another a little better. This was particularly important as we acquired several new players this off-season who were meeting one another for the first time.
Due to the extensive travel during the first couple of weeks of camp, it was necessary for us to travel with 41 players, who were split into two teams. The teams were created with a blend of both our young and more experienced players playing each night.
I have always been a firm believer that the pre-season is a time that is best suited for evaluating our player's talents and abilities. While we would have liked to have pull out a couple of more wins last week, it is important to note that camp has been very fruitful in helping us to establish where many of our players were in their evaluation process. I think it is pertinent for our fans to take a closer look at each of our games, to see just how well many of our players performed and why we should be encouraged about the upcoming season.
For instance, in our first game in Calgary G Jean-Marc Pelletier played fantastic stopping all 11 shots that he faced, while both C Greg Jacina and RW Anthony Stewart played nearly ten minutes with each player recording four shots on goal. The following night in Edmonton our goaltenders played exceptional with Alex Auld and Craig Anderson combining for 26 saves. In addition, young defenseman Martin Lojek recorded his first National Hockey League goal on a great shot from the point.
On Wednesday in Atlanta, RW Nathan Horton recorded a goal and an assist, while Pelletier was again solid in net stopping ten out of 11 shots that he faced. The next evening in Chicago we received great production from our young forwards with both LW Rostislav Olesz and rookie forward David Booth scoring goals. Booth played perhaps one of his best games of the preseason logged just over 13 minutes of ice-time with three shots on goal and a +1 rating.
On Saturday in Puerto Rico, I was very pleased with the way our team played against a NY Rangers squad that was loaded with talent. Newly acquired D Ari Vallin had a very strong game, including tallying his first NHL goal, along with ringing a shot off the cross bar late in the second period. In our last preseason road game in Detroit on Sunday night, I was very encouraged by the play C Janis Sprukts. He scored the first goal of the game, recorded three shots on goal and won six out of seven face-offs. RW Rob Globke and Booth both also had productive games leading the team with four shots on goal and a + 1 rating.
After taking Monday off our team was back on the ice today at the BankAtlantic Center for practice. On Wednesday and Thursday we play in our final preseason games as we near the start of the regular season. In our two games this week, I will begin to put together some line combinations that will be used during the regular season. Both games will highlight the talented team that we have assembled during the off-season.
I look forward to seeing everyone at our games this week and our regular season opener on Oct. 6 versus the Boston Bruins.