Lineup Set for Pre-season Opener
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Each of the game’s four centers, Zac Dalpe, Riley Nash, Jeff Skinner and Jon Matsumoto, will be making their exhibition debut with experienced wingers like Tom Kostopoulos, Chad LaRose and Tuomo Ruutu. They’ll be joined by more experienced roster hopefuls such as Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk and Bobby Sanguinetti. Cam Ward will start in goal, but is expected to make way for Justin Pogge at some point.
The full lineup can be found below, although coach Paul Maurice cautioned that the group will be subject to change based on health. Understandably, a handful of players are experiencing some soreness after a brisk beginning to camp, including Erik Cole, who was slotted to play in Patrick Dwyer’s spot against Florida on Tuesday but will be held out as a precaution.
“They’ve all got their cell phones with them,” said Maurice. “If somebody gets a cramp or a groin, then we’re going to take them out.”
Maurice added that Cole is expected back at practice tomorrow and should play in Nashville on Thursday.
Now that the game schedule has approached, the coaching staff dialed down the pace during Monday’s practices relative to the intense first weekend. However, those not slated to play a game on any given night should still expect a thorough workout that morning.
“They hit the wall about halfway through those breakout/regroup drills and you could see it,” said Maurice of Monday’s group. “We pulled them off, and guys that don’t play will go back out tomorrow.”
Not that it should come as any surprise, but Ruutu seemed raring to go for Tuesday’s game. The summer was a bit longer for the Finnish winger, who shut his season down in late March for shoulder surgery. Originally expected to miss four to five months, he estimates having been back on the ice full-tilt for the last six weeks.
“I expected to be back in the lineup,” he said. “It was good to get the surgery done early because I wanted to be ready for this season, but also because I didn’t have to rush myself to get back into games.”
Maurice said that he expects Ruutu and other veterans to play between four and six of the team’s seven exhibition games. By default, one of those will be the Oct. 4 game in St. Petersburg.
Other lineup spots will go to the large group of younger players that the coaches believe capable of making the team, but there may not be enough time to allow every play in camp to suit up.
“This is the challenge, because we really do feel that we have a number of players that have an opportunity to make our team that weren’t full-time players for us last year,” said Maurice. “In order to do that, they need to play enough exhibition games, but at the same time you can’t sacrifice the fact that your established guys need a certain amount of work to feel like they’re ready.”
LaRose – Skinner – Dwyer
Bowman – Nash – Ruutu
O’Sullivan – Dalpe – Kostopoulos
Boychuk – Matsumoto – Samson