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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



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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
N. Hanifin 79 4 18 -14 22
J. Slavin 63 2 18 1 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81