CHARLOTTE — As preseason exhibition games go, the Carolina Hurricanes couldnt have scripted it any better.
The Hurricanes needed a preseason win and got it Sunday, topping the Winnipeg Jets 4-0.
But the Canes wanted to do more than win a game. This was their first visit to Charlotte and Time Warner Cable Arena, home to the Charlotte Checkers, the Canes American Hockey League affiliate.
The Hurricanes looked at it as a showcase game, and as if on cue, former Checkers forwards Zac Dalpe, Jerome Samson and Riley Nash all scored goals. Add in a shutout by Cam Ward, and this game could not have worked out any better for the Canes, or Checkers.
I guess the Checkers know how the bounces go in this rink, Dalpe said, smiling. We seemed to be in the right place at the right time to get some goals, and gave the fans what they wanted in Charlotte.
Dalpe noted that with the Carolina Panthers playing a home game Sunday afternoon, the Canes werent sure how many fans would find their way into the arena for hockey. But the crowd was large and loud, with a turnout of 10,433.
Dalpe had the fans roaring at 6:43 of the first period, taking a pass from Jiri Tlusty and scoring on a breakaway. Samson and Nash had second-period goals Samson with a sharp-angle shot after winning a puck battle and Nash off a rebound.
Ward got what he wanted 60 minutes in goal and some quality work. He stopped 36 shots and made some strong saves, once robbing the Jets Randy Jones with a nifty glove save.
It was just a solid game by our team, Ward said. It was a fun atmosphere, too. Its a credit to the Charlotte fans for the atmosphere they created. They made it a fun game.
You could tell we were a lot crisper with our passes and had a strong effort. Its nice to throw a win in the column and feel good.
The Hurricanes dropped their first two preseason games, losing 3-2 to the Nashville Predators on Friday at the RBC Center in Raleigh. The Canes had most of their top players in Sundays game while the Jets went with a younger lineup.
But this game had a who-wants-it feel to it for the Canes, as well. Dalpe, Samson, Nash helped the Checkers reach the playoffs last year but are fighting for NHL roster spots. On the back end, Ryan Murphy and Justin Faulk keep playing well enough to earn more playing time the two teenage defensemen will be in the lineup again Wednesday in Winnipeg, Canes coach Paul Maurice said.
Jay Harrison, who scored on a shot from the point in the first period, was paired defensively Sunday with Murphy, the Canes first-round draft pick this year. Faulk was paired with Tomas Kaberle.
Going into training camp I would have said forward is where the competition is, Maurice said. Im not sure that the end of camp we wont say all the competition turned out to be on our back end.
In the first period, Murphy lost the puck to Jets forward Eric ODell behind the Canes net, only to swipe it back and use his quickness and skating skill to zip down ice and into the Jets end. Murphy finished plus-3 and Faulk plus-2 in the game.
Maurice liked the play of forward Anthony Stewart, praising his decision-making in the Canes end and the way the 6-3, 230-pound winger used his size on the forecheck. Maurice noted Tlusty didnt score but did some man things, planting defenseman Zach Bogosian into the boards with a big hit.
Dalpe, who seems to have secured a roster spot, was used at times on Eric Staals line with Alexei Ponikarovsky. Nash centered Jeff Skinner and Stewart, filling in for injured center Tuomo Ruutu.
The Canes bobbled a few pucks in their end but their puck movement showed improvement from the Preds game.
It was definitely better than it was the other night and we needed it to be, Maurice said.
The same could be said for the game
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