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Competition Magnifies as Group Thins

Monday, 09.23.2013 / 12:45 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Competition Magnifies as Group Thins
After four preseason games in four nights, including a three-game road swing that took the team through Buffalo, Quebec City and Montreal, the Carolina Hurricanes got back to work on Monday morning in Raleigh.

Michael Smith
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With another round of cuts – which brings the Canes’ roster total to 28 – made official on Monday, training camp shifts gears from the broad to the specific. Head coach Kirk Muller said the focus now is on fine-tuning details of the team’s game after coming off the weekend 1-3 in preseason play.

“I think we’re right on course,” he said. “You always want to win, but we knew before that [in] the four games, the priority was to give everyone an opportunity to play.”

Competition for securing a spot is now magnified, as the days tick down to opening night on Oct. 4. For those still in Raleigh – including Jeremy Welsh, Zac Dalpe, Matt Corrente, Brett Bellemore, among others – time may still be on their side.

“Stage one of camp was pretty successful,” said Muller. “The guys worked hard and competed. Some guys’ stock went up, and some went in the other direction. But they still have the opportunity because we don’t have our [final group] yet.”

From the outset, Muller saw the team’s first four preseason games as a fair barometer of player evaluation; the results weren’t of chief concern.

“I’m not worried about goals against in the first few games because we had guys that were just learning the system and (essentially) two teams,” he said.

Even still, being blanked 6-0 by the Montreal Canadiens in Quebec City on Friday night didn’t sit well.

“No one wants to lose. It was a quiet plane ride to Montreal,” said Jiri Tlusty. “The next day, we knew the deal. Everyone came out hard and focused, even at the morning skate.”

That night, Anton Khudobin made 41 saves, back-stopping the Canes their first victory of the preseason, 3-1. Muller said the team surrendered just eight scoring chances in five-on-five situations.

“We wanted to prove that we can play against everyone,” Tlusty said. “We need to play our style and be sure about our game. That’s the most important thing.”

“The Montreal game was a really good sign for me that the stuff that we work on, it translates into it,” Muller said.

Khudobin’s solid performance in net, Muller said, sets the table for the team being able to ice a dynamic duo between the pipes.

“We knew when we brought him in that he was a quality goalie and a great character guy,” Muller said. “We’ve got a one-two tandem right now. There’s no reason why those two guys can’t be one of the best pairings.”

The team is currently battling a number of injuries to its top players. Tuomo Ruutu (lower-body), Alexander Semin (upper-body) and Tim Gleason (upper-body) are all considered day-to-day, but likely won’t skate with the team on Tuesday. Elias Lindholm, who did not play in any of the three road games, is also battling an upper-body concern; he skated with Rod Brind’Amour following Monday’s practice.

The Canes are set to practice in Raleigh on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning before flying out to Columbus for their fifth preseason match on Thursday evening. Carolina wraps up its preseason schedule versus Buffalo at home on Friday.



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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