Battle for jobs will be on display in Hurricanes first home preseason game

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Matt Tennyson takes part in a scrimmage on Friday

RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes play just two of their seven exhibition games at PNC Arena this preseason, and the first home outing Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning will feature an experienced lineup looking to improve to 3-0.”It’ll be interesting to see now with obviously now a few more guys we predict to be in our lineup playing tonight,” assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour said following the morning skate ahead of the 7:30 p.m. game. “We’ll see how it all jells. That’s kind of the step we’re looking for, who plays well with who and that’s what we’re hoping to see.”Newcomer Lee Stempniak, a free agent signed to a two-year contract this summer, will join Victor Rask and Jeff Skinner on a line and one of the team’s power play units. “For a new guy it’s good to come in and try to get some continuity with players, trying to find if we have some chemistry,” Stempniak said of playing alongside Skinner and Rask for most of preseason. “I don’t know if that will last, but for now I feel like it’s gotten better each day and we’re just trying to figure things out on the ice together and each other’s tendencies.”Stempniak said his experience with a player similar to Skinner should help chemistry.”I played on the same line with Sid for probably 15 games, and he’s probably the most similar in terms of just how powerful he is,” Stempniak said, comparing Skinner to Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. “He’s just such a dynamic skater … Skins seems to open his hips a lot and protects the puck so well, and it seems like when guys push on him he’s able to use that momentum to propel himself forward and away from guys. When he’s got the puck it’s just a matter of giving him some space and trying to get open.”Two other newcomers, Finns Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho, will make their preseason debuts and try to find rhythm with each other and their linemate. The duo, who played for Finland at the World Cup of Hockey and joined practice Monday, will be centered by Elias Lindholm.”Just one practice it’s hard to really tell, but they move the puck around really well,” Brind’Amour said of the two Finns. “Obviously high skill level, high hockey sense. It should be exciting to watch this year.”The trio is also on the other power play unit together, with Teravainen at the point with Justin Faulk, and Jordan Staal serving as the net-front presence.On the other two forward lines, Staal will center Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe — two players looking to earn one of the final forward spots during camp — and camp tryout Raffi Torres, who will be 35 on Oct. 8, looks to make an impression on a line with Lucas Wallmark and Andrej Nestrasil. It would be Nestrasil’s first game action since he fractured a vertebra Feb. 25 in a game at Toronto.Defenseman Matt Tennyson, who signed a two-way deal this offseason, is also looking to earn a job as the right-handed defenseman on Carolina’s third pairing. He will pair up with Trevor Carrick, one of Carolina’s many young defensemen.”It’s just different than when I was in San Jose,” the 26-year-old Tennyson said. “Obviously a lot of those guys are older than me and … it was just a different dynamic. You’re still competing every day, it doesn’t matter how old they are.” Watching from the press box should be coach Bill Peters, fresh off his second tournament win of the offseason after Team Canada finished off Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey Thursday. Peters, who coached from on high for Canada during the World Cup after being head coach for his home country’s win at the World Championships in the spring, will be getting his first look at Tennyson and the team before resuming control at practice this weekend.”You always want to make a good first impression,”Tennyson said of his first audition for Peters. “Obviously, a first year with the team, he hasn’t seen me play. So I’m not going to do anything out of the ordinary or play a different game, but obviously you want to play good every time you’re out there.”Former first-round pick Ryan Murphy is competing with Tennyson for that job, and could be considered the frontrunner after he given a two-year, one-way contract this summer. “I think I just have to build on my game from the last three years,” Murphy said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself, about my game and I just want to build on it and keep learning each and every day. I think if I do that, I’ll be good.”Murphy will not play Friday against the Lightning, but he did return to practice after being exiled to an off-site training facility due to flu-like symptoms earlier in the week.In the offseason, Murphy worked off the ice for the second straight year with former Detroit and Toronto strength and conditioning coach Pete Renzetti.”He’s a very smart man,” Murphy said of Renzetti. “We do a lot of weight training, a lot of cardio. So I’m really comfortable with the way I came in to camp. I worked with a defensive coach back home as well, which I think is going to help my overall game.Justin Faulk and Jaccob Slavin are poised to be Carolina’s No. 1 pairing come opening night, but Ron Hainsey will step in with Faulk on the first pairing for Friday’s game. Brett Pesce and Haydn Fleury make up the other D pairing.In net, Eddie Lack, who did not allow a goal in two periods in the preseason opener, and Michael Leighton will be dressed. If he plays, it would be Leighton’s first action of the preseason.For the Lightning, Brayden Point will be back in the lineup after scoring his second goal in as many games Thursday in Tampa Bay’s 2-0 win over Florida. The Lightning’s lineup won’t feature as many NHLers as Carolina, but some notables who will dress include Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, J.T. Brown and Andrei Vasilevskiy.