RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes, in retrospect, considered it a mistake to play just four preseason games last year.
If so, they won't repeat it.
The Hurricanes announced Thursday they would play seven exhibition games heading into the 2010-11 season. Six of the games will be against the Atlanta Thrashers, Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators, and the seventh in St. Petersburg, Russia, as part of the 2010 NHL Premiere Challenge.
The Canes' first game will be Sept. 21 at the RBC Center against the Panthers. They then will play on three consecutive nights - Sept. 23 at Nashville; Sept. 24 against Atlanta at the RBC Center; and Sept. 25 at Atlanta. Carolina will play at Florida on Sept. 29 and host Atlanta on Oct. 1.
The Hurricanes will travel to Russia to face SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) on Oct. 4 before opening the regular season with two games against the Minnesota Wild in Helsinki, Finland.
"I think it's the perfect number of exhibition games," Canes coach Paul Maurice said Thursday. "We have a bunch of back-to-backs and will have to use a lot of people, which is good. We will have a number of spots open, which will put more value on the exhibition games, both in terms of people trying to make the team and those after more ice time.
"We're really excited about the last one. Sometimes, when you get to the end of the exhibition games it can be hard to evaluate. But the game in Russia will be a big, big deal. With an NHL team there, it's a big deal."
General manager Jim Rutherford said a compressed preseason training camp and fewer preseason games were factors in the Canes' poor start last season, saying many players were not in good game-shape when the regular season began.
"I think our fitness was good, but I think we were losing a little of our edge," Maurice said. "Surely we were not as sharp as we should have been, although I don't want to use that as an excuse. But the game of hockey needs to be played at a certain rhythm, and we did not have it."
The Canes will open training camp on Sept. 17.
Note: Defenseman Brian Dumoulin is among the 44 players invited to the 2010 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp. The camp is set July 30-Aug. 7 at the Lake Placid (N.Y.) Olympic Center to help select the U.S. team for the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Dumoulin, the Canes' second-round draft pick last year, helped Boston College win the NCAA championship as a freshman.
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