After four days of practice and the Red-White scrimmage, the Canes are ready for some exhibition, play-someone-else type of games.
The Canes put in two group practices Monday at PNC Arena, then flew to Washington to play the Capitals in a Monday night game. The group that did not play against the Caps will then face the Pittsburgh Penguins in a second preseason road game Tuesday.
What will Canes coach Bill Peters be looking for in the two games?
“System play, obviously, but I want to see the guys play hard and play with energy,” he said Monday. “I want to see who has the most desperation in their game. There are a lot of young guys in the game tonight so it should be exciting.”
While defensemen Justin Faulk and John-Michael Liles are in the “game group” for the Caps, they will not play in either of the first two preseason games. The defensive pairs for the Caps will have Ron Hainsey playing with Danny Biega, Ryan Murphy and Haydn Fleury and Brett Pesce and Keegan Lowe.
Goalie Eddie Lack, obtained in a June trade with Vancouver, will be in net for Carolina. Cam Ward should start Tuesday against the Pens.
The Canes will use the veteran line of Jordan Staal centering Eric Staal and Kris Versteeg against the Caps. The other lines will have Riley Nash centering Brad Malone and Andrej Nestrasil, Derek Ryan at center with Phil Di Giuseppe and Sergey Tolchinsky, and Brody Sutter with Carter Sandlak and Zach Boychuk.
In Monday’s second practice, Peters had Victor Rask centering Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm. That should be the top line against Pittsburgh.
Peters noted with 17 defensemen still in camp, “We’ve got to get them in when we can. We have to get a look at some of the young guys. We’re just going to let them play. We’re not going to worry about matchups or try to hide people.”
Forward Joakim Nordstrom was a little late getting started in camp because of a visa problem but has impressed Peters. The 6-1, 189-pound Swede was acquired in the trade with the Chicago Blackhawks that also brought Versteeg to Carolina, and will play Tuesday against Pittsburgh.
“Quick, real quick,” Peters said. “Intelligent player and a very strong, powerful skater. Long, lean body. He looks like he knows what he’s doing out there.”
While the training camp roster was trimmed after the Red-White scrimmage, Peters said the Canes probably would take at least 44 players to Canada later this week for back-to-back preseason games Saturday and Sunday against the New York Islanders (in Halifax, NS) and Ottawa Senators (St. John’s, NF).
“If they deserve another game or another day, they’re going to get another day,” Peters said of the camp hopefuls.