RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes wrap up their seven-game exhibition schedule with a home game at 7:30 p.m. Friday against the Washington Capitals. It will be close to an NHL lineup for coach Bill Peters — the only holdouts are Lee Stempniak and Teuvo Teravainen (more on them in a moment). Here’s what we learned at the morning skate.
- Janne Kuokkanen will fill in alongside Victor Rask and Justin Williams due to Teravainen being held out. Peters said the team was “being careful” with Teravainen, who has had a solid preseason with three goals and a team-best five points in just three preseason games. The other rookie up front is first-round pick Martin Necas, who fills in for Stempniak on the right wing of a line with Jeff Skinner centered by Derek Ryan (the other guy with three goals this preseason, though in just two games).
- Stempniak’s injury is still a mystery. Last week Peters said the problem had moved from Stempniak’s back to groin and that the team was awaiting results of an MRI. Friday morning, he still didn’t know the results of that MRI or have an update on the veteran winger. “You know what, I don’t know to be honest with you,” Peters said when asked what Stempniak’s ailment was. “They’re working on that. They’re trying to find the root of the problem.”
- Both Necas and Kuokkanen benefit. It’s a bigger game for Necas, who is a natural center but been moved to the wing to ease his defensive responsibilities in case he breaks camp with the team. As Peters mentioned after the morning skate, the Hurricanes have loads of options for Necas. “Obviously if he’s here for the whole year, that’s good,” Peters said. “If he’s here for, you know, nine games or less, that’s good. If he goes to play in Charlotte, that’s a very good option for us. Then we have access to him. And I know the Czech league’s very good, and the Ontario league team is an interesting prospect, too.” My money’s on option two: give Necas a look for nine games or less, then return him to the Czech league or, if he wants, the OHL, so the first year of his entry-level contract isn’t used. But if he’s here nine games and proves he belongs, the other options are there.
- Trevor Carrick cleared waivers Friday, a relief for the Hurricanes who were at risk of losing a D prospect who is nearly NHL-ready. When asked about Carrick after practice, Peters said the young defenseman needs to “round some edges” in his game, but he’s close to breaking through. “We had a real good meeting on the plane about if he is up here what we need from him,” Peters said. “And it’s different from what they need down in the American league. They need him to be on the power play and be a bit of a point producer. We don’t need that from him when he’s up here. So he was real good in the meeting, and he’s really close to becoming a full-time NHL player.”
- The lines looked like this:
Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce have been split up most of the preseason, probably in an effort to bring more overall stability to the top two pairings. How those pairings line up each night this season could depend on the opponent. At home against an elite top line, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Slavin and Pesce reunited to be a pure shutdown pair, whereas on the road the team could opt to split them up so they have at least one out in most situations when they don’t have the final change. Having Slavin and Pesce on separate lines should give Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin a chance to be more offensive.
- Peters had a brief chat with Williams near the benches at the end of practice, and the coach has been happy with what Williams has brought to the team. “Willy’s a very vocal guy, a very smart player,” Peters said. “He looks like he’s an easy guy to play with no matter who is other two forwards are with him.” From where I sit, the odds of him becoming the next captain seem to be increasing by the day. If he’s not, Williams is the kind of guy who will still be leading on and off the ice.
If you’re tired of reading and would rather hear what I like to call my “voice made for print,” I was on the Section 328 “Cheaters Never Win” podcast, and I also talked with Dean Millard from Edmonton’s TSN 1260 earlier in the week.