Anyone paying attention to Canes hockey in September knows that the preseason has gone very well thus far. The games do not count in the standings, but winning still always beats losing as long as you are going to keep score. More significantly, nothing will be validated until the real games start, but there are at least signs of hope that new head coach Rod Brind’Amour is making progress in effecting a change in culture and attitude.
With four games to audition players and get players up to game speed now in the rear view mirror, this weekend features two games that will focus on preparing for next Thursday’s season opener.
‘What I’m watching’ for today’s game is sort of a mini-set of what was included in today’s Daily Cup of Joe that built a work list for the remainder of the preseason.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Washington Capitals
1) Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen
After being reunited at practice this week, the duo should see their first game action of the preseason together tonight in Washington, D.C. Both players have started slow which is not a huge deal being only a couple exhibition games, but ideal would be to get both ignited heading into the regular season.
2) Who plays with whom
The most significant thing to come out of Friday’s game could be before the puck even drops. I would expect Brind’Amour to begin working toward his opening day lineup, so whereas it may not have mattered much 10 days ago, who plays with whom is more meaningful now. Subject to change repeatedly throughout a long NHL season, today’s line combinations and defense pairings are likely to be reasonably close to what we see on Thursday.
3) Slotting the kids
Following from #2, I am especially curious to see where Warren Foegele, Lucas Wallmark and Janne Kuokkanen land. The math says that they are one too many and that one could be returned to Charlotte to get the forward group down to 13, but I said about a week ago that the current trajectory could see the Hurricanes keep 14 forwards.
I actually think Wallmark’s line could be used more like a third line that Necas’ line early on. As such, I think Brind’Amour will flank him with as much scoring help as he can muster.
I am on record as saying that Kuokkanen’s head two-way play beyond his years is a good fit for Staal’s line. I will be curious to see if he slots there today as he did early in preseason.
The way Warren Foegele is playing right now, he fits anywhere. But Brind’Amour has some balancing to do with so many rookies. He has expressed a preference to split Necas and Svechnikov early on. Even though Foegele is a rookie, could he fit on a line with Necas? Could he receive an audition with Aho/Teravainen? I will be curious to see regardless.
4) Maintaining intensity
The hallmark of the Hurricanes preseason success has been an incredibly consistent, hard-charging style of play. The results are not critical, but I will be watching to see if the same near perfect consistency level for pace and effort can be maintained.
The puck drops at 7pm I believe with a streaming version of the Caps coverage to be available online.