After another long offseason, the Carolina Hurricanes are back on the ice in game action in the first of six preseason games to prepare for the 2018-19 NHL season.
The game group travels to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning.
As is usually the case in early preseason road games, the Hurricanes lineup is slightly on the light side in terms of players expected to make the NHL roster and as is often the case, will play a Lightning team that is fairly stacked with its superstars. Both today’s game and Wednesday’s will feature ‘that one chance to impress’ for a number of players on the underside of the cut line before the roster starts to shrink and the team focuses more on NHL lineup preparation.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Tampa Bay Lightning
1) Young D under pressure
As noted above, many of Tampa Bay’s big guns will be in the lineup and will be facing a young Hurricanes group on defense that includes only Haydn Fleury and Trevor van Riemsdyk for the 2017-18 NHL regulars.
The game represents a big challenge and measuring stick for the group of aspiring young defensemen that includes Roland McKeown, Jake Bean, Josh Wesley, Daniel Renouf and Michal Cajkovsky.
On Tuesday, I will be watching to see how the young group holds up against high-end NHL competition as a way of measuring proximity to NHL-readiness for these players.
2) Lucas Wallmark
As detailed in my Daily Cup of Joe article on Monday on Victor Rask’s injury, I see Lucas Wallmark as the front runner to win the center slot vacated by Rask. He did all he can do in the AHL in 2017-18 and must now clear waivers to return there. As such, I and the team will be watching him closely in preseason to see if he is ready to play at the NHL level and also an early read on if he can be more than serviceable in that role.
The lineup does not have much for NHL level wings, but I would expect Wallmark to be flanked by some combination of Brock McGinn, Jordan Martinook, Valentin Zykov and Phil Di Giuseppe as he lines up against a strong Lightning squad. This game represents a first chance for Wallmark to assert that he is in fact the right choice for the open center slot.
3) First impressions
As is often the case this time of year, the game represents a chance to draw first impressions for young players and recently-acquired players. I am sticking to my guns on saying the preseason is mostly irrelevant for goalies but will admittedly watch Petr Mrazek a bit. More significant will be seeing how Andrei Svechnikov looks at NHL pace and also how Jordan Martinook and Cliff Pu look in their Canes debuts.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What will you be watching for in the first preseason game?
2) Are you concerned about the significant lineup advantage that the Lightning will have and the potential effect of a negative start even though it is preseason?
3) What is your wild guess for how the young defensemen fare against a lineup toting a number of good NHL scorers?