Tracking the Storm

Gameday: Preseason Begins Against Columbus

Wednesday, 09.18.2013 / 12:45 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Preseason Begins Against Columbus

The regular season is still just over two weeks away, but professional hockey returns to Raleigh tonight, as the Carolina Hurricanes take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Canes’ preseason opener.

Michael Smith
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It’s the first of six preseason games for the Hurricanes, and it comes after nearly a week of on-ice training camp activity.

“I think everyone is ready to get going,” said Canes head coach Kirk Muller after practice on Tuesday. “They’re eager to start playing”

The Hurricanes will ice a relatively experienced lineup against the visiting Blue Jackets, who played a split-squad set against Buffalo and Minnesota on Tuesday night. Eric Staal will center the Canes’ first line, Mike Komisarek gets first defensive pair billing with Tim Gleason and Cam Ward will get the start in net.

Muller said on Tuesday that he expects to start Ward four out of the team’s six preseason games, with the 29-year-old goaltender going at least 40 minutes tonight.

Drayson Bowman finds a home on the first line with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin in Jiri Tlusty’s stead, as the Czech forward eases back into physical play after absorbing a big hit during a scrimmage on Friday.

“I think Bo has really been skating strong and looks great there,” Muller said. “It kind of gives us an excuse to break up the big three for a different look.

“The nice thing about camp is just playing around with different combinations in case you need them during certain times.”

Elias Lindholm will make his debut in game action for the Hurricanes, as he centers the second line surrounded by Jeff Skinner and Nathan Gerbe.

“Everyone remembers their first game, so I’m sure he’s nervous,” Muller said Wednesday. “He’s just got to go out, relax and play the game.”

“It’s going to be fun,” Lindholm said, adding that he felt well-prepared for tonight’s game. “This is what you dream of as a kid, and here I am.”

The third line is intriguing in that it features three players – Chris Terry, Jeremy Welsh and Zac Dalpe – who are pushing for spots in the team’s top nine; keep an eye for who might stand out and earn another game.

The fourth line of Nicolas Blanchard, Brett Sutter and Kevin Westgarth packs three bruisers who can effectively throw their weight around. With roster cuts looming, this game could be a chance for any of the three to leave an impression.

Muller said the team would likely trim the roster into the 30’s sometime Wednesday before the three-game road swing; this game could be a make-or-break moment for a number of skaters.

“[Tonight is] just pure individual evaluation,” Muller said. “We’ve taken some time to introduce enough of the system so the guys are aware. … We don’t expect that stuff to be perfect. [We’re looking] at the competitive level and who can sustain it.”

Tonight’s tilt begins a stretch of four preseason matches in four nights. But don’t expect the Hurricanes to drop their intensity level.

“You might get one game to show what you’ve got,” Muller said. “It’s exhibition, but if I was a player in those shoes, you’d want to go out and empty the tank every opportunity you’ve got.”

Tonight’s Lineup

Bowman-E. Staal-Semin
Skinner-Lindholm-Gerbe
Terry-Welsh-Dalpe
Blanchard-Sutter-Westgarth

Gleason-Komisarek
Jordan-Bellemore
Harrison-Murphy

Ward, Peters



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72