Canes top Sabres, close preseason 3-3

calexander@newsobserver.comSeptember 27, 2013 

— For the Carolina Hurricanes, the preliminaries are all but over.

The Canes played their sixth and final preseason exhibition game Friday, using a shorthanded goal by Patrick Dwyer, another sound effort in net by Cam Ward and some aggressive play to top the Buffalo Sabres 1-0 at PNC Arena.

“In your last exhibition game you want to end it on a high note,” Ward said. “I thought our team played a complete game. Buffalo hung around and got some great goaltending from Ryan Miller tonight, but we stuck with our game.”

Ward was playing his second straight game after stopping 25 of 26 shots Thursday in a 2-1 win at Columbus. He faced just 18 shots against the Sabres and 11 came in the third, when Canes coach Kirk Muller said his team began to tire and get a little heavy-legged in the defensive zone.

Muller said he would take the first three or four preseason games to make personnel evaluations, then determine what areas needed to “fine-tuned” before the Oct. 4 season-opener against the Detroit Red Wings. He’d like to see a stronger forecheck, he said, fewer turnovers in the neutral zone and better puck placement.

“It’s been a building block,” Muller said. “With the guys we have out we know we have to continue to stress defense and play a solid game.”

After six preseason games, the Canes’ penalty-killing appears to be a strength and much improved.

The power play? It still needs work, even with forwards Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu out with injuries.

Dwyer’s goal came early in the second period, after some good stickwork by Jordan Staal in the Canes zone. Dwyer streaked down the left wing with the puck, caught Miller leaning toward the post and ripped a shot glove-side with at two minutes, 39 seconds of the second.

The Canes, in closing the preseason with three straight wins to close 3-3, were the quicker team the first two periods, taking a 22-7 shooting edge. The Canes had 17 shots to Buffalo’s four in a scoreless first period.

Nathan Gerbe, who scored twice at Columbus, had eight of Carolina’s 30 shots against Buffalo. Drafted by the Sabres and once a fixture in their lineup, he had some back issues and had his contract bought out after last season.

“Gerbs is a little spark plug,” Jordan Staal said.

Ward was virtually untested through two periods. He has a busier third, stopping a shot by Thomas Vanek with 18 seconds remaining for his last save.

“He hadn’t gotten a lot of action the last two (games) but when the saves were there he made them,” Muller said. “It’s a confidence-builder, really.”

The Sabres, with six rookies in the lineup, had five power plays. But the Canes snuffed out each one and finished 27-of-29 pn the penalty kill in the preseason.

Muller tweaked his lineup from the Columbus game, giving defenseman Mike Komisarek and forward Zac Dalpe another opportunity to play. Komisarek played almost 19 minutes and blocked three shots.

“I was really pleased with Mike,” Muller said. “He only played maybe 10 games, tops, last year. He missed a lot and we’ve got to build his confidence back up.”

The injuries remain a lingering concern for the Hurricanes. Muller indicated Semin and Skinner could return soon – the Canes have an off-day Saturday – but Ruutu’s lower-body injury appears to be more serious. Defenseman Tim Gleason also has been sidelined.

The Canes must make a decision on forward Elias Lindholm, their first-round draft pick this year. Lindholm has played just one preseason game and missed practice time because of a hand injury.

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