With two days of NHL regular season games already in the books, the Hurricanes will take to the ice at PNC Arena on Thursday night against the New York Islanders for the season opener.
The lineup figures to include six players making their Carolina Hurricanes debuts with Antti Raanta also on the bench to make seven total.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe has watch points for the six newcomers who figure to be in the lineup.
Playing behind a lineup that was light on NHL players on the road in preseason, Andersen was touched up a bit more in the preseason finale, but he generally looked sharp in training camp and in preseason action. Getting at least one of the two new goalies settled in quickly will be important for getting off to a good start. Another interesting watch point will be seeing how the team adjusts in real game action having less of a puck handler in net.
In my opinion, Kotkaniemi enters the season with the widest range of possible outcomes especially one considers his pricey acquisition cost of a first and third round draft pick and a $6 million salary. He will get every opportunity to be a difference-maker in the top half of the roster beacause that is what he was acquired to do.
Can he boost the fourth line to be a perfect combination of capable defensively but also with a bit of scoring punch? As a player whose younger days were spent matching up against players like Crosby, Ovechkin and others in a primary checking line duty, the possibility is there for him to be an upgrade even if in a lower slot in the lineup at this stage of his career.
Based on the tail end of preseason, DeAngelo figures to get first crack at the top four slot vacated by Dougie Hamilton. He is a bit like Hamilton in that he can lean offense and be a bit of a rover at times. Slavin will be there to help a bit, but in a top four role, the defensive side of the puck is a requirement too. Can DeAngelo rebound after time away from the game and fill this critical role? Thursday could be a first data point on exactly that.
Initially, Bear figured to play next to Slavin, but at least for the time being Brind’Amour seems to prefer him with Ian Cole down on the third pairing. Bear had an interesting training camp flashing a bit more offense maybe than was expected but also struggling defensively at times seemingly caught a few times thinking instead of just reacting in terms of slightly different system and responsibilities with a new team. I still think he is more likely to fill the slot next to Slavin. Regardless of if that happens sooner, later or never, seeing how Bear looks in real NHL action is worth watching.
Cole brings a steady even if unspectacular veteran to be half of a reliable third pairing. More significantly, my watch point for Cole is if he can add a bit of physical in a somewhat mean way on the back end. After Fleury who was sporadic at best in terms of physicality and then Hakanpaa who seemed to be an odd version of gentlemanly even if reasonably consistently physical, Cole hopefully brings more of a true edge. Tampa Bay transitioned from good in the regular to good in the playoffs when they added a bit more grit, importantly in the form of players who could produce too. In addition to being capable defensively, Cole could be a step in that direction for the Canes interestingly at a time when the team let McGinn and Foegele go. On Thursday, I will be watching to see to what degree Cole can have an impact on the game, team and intensity level from his depth role.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which newcomer are you most excited to see in real NHL action on Thursday?
2) What 2-3 watch points do you have for these players?
Definitely interested in the rebuilt blue line. If practice is any indication, Bear is back with Slavin. Probably for the best. Best guy for Bear to play with as he adjusts to the Canes style of play. DeAngelo will fit the Canes style, but is not the guy you want out against top lines.
I am very interested to watch Kotkaniemi without the puck. How engaged is he? Does he float? He’ll be great on the PP, no doubt. The skill is top notch. His compete level is my concern. It won’t always be easy no matter how good you are.
Finally, the goalies. All of these changes can work perfectly, but if the goalies don’t hold up it won’t matter. Frankly, I’m holding my breath. Thought Anderson was good in his first game, just OK in his second. Raanta…not so much.