Sure, it was just the first full day of training camp.
Granted, the Carolina Hurricanes have a lot of new players in camp.
Yes, Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour will be looking at various line combinations and defensive pairings in camp, looking for the right personnel fit.
Nothing is set in stone. As Brind’Amour put it: “It’s way too early to tell.”
But Brind’Amour and his staff did have a practice plan for Thursday and the first day of on-ice work in camp. They did put together forward combos and D pairs for the veteran group that practiced first at PNC Arena — Team Attitude, it’s called.
For what it’s worth, Sebastian Aho centered a line with Nino Niederreiter and Martin Necas. Canes captain Jordan Staal had Andrei Svechnikov and Jesper Fast as his wingers, and Vincent Trocheck centered Teuvo Teravainen and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The fourth line, at times, had Derek Stepan centering Steven Lorentz and Jordan Martinook, with Josh Leivo also used on the wing.
One eyebrow-raiser: defenseman Ethan Bear worked with Jaccob Slavin on Thursday. Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce were paired and Ian Cole with Tony DeAngelo on D.
Brind’Amour’s assessment of the first day: “All right.”
“It’s a lot of introductory stuff,” he told the media. “A lot of guys haven’t seen any of this of how we’re doing it, so I expected it to be a little rough.”
There was plenty of skating. There was some physical stuff, with some battle drills in front of the net. A couple of guys crashed into goalie Frederik Andersen as they went at it and they all tumbled into the net.
“There was a great pace out there,” Staal said. “It was a good day and all the guys looked ready to go.”
Brind’Amour, beginning his fourth year as head coach, kept to his routine of stopping practice periodically to have shootout shots. DeAngelo and Teravainen scored; Svechnikov did not. So it went.
The second practice group, Team Attitude, was made up mostly of prospects and players who could be headed to the Chicago Wolves, the Canes’ American Hockey League affiliate. Forward Seth Jarvis, the Canes’ first-round draft pick in 2020, did not practice Thursday but remains in camp.
Their goal is to make it through the roster cutdowns in camp, make it into the big group and earn a spot on the final roster.
With so many players on NHL one-way contracts, that might be hard to do. This should be a Canes team built with depth, especially on the back end where Brind’Amour believed the Canes proved to be vulnerable last year in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“We were pretty fortunate during the year not having injuries on D,” Brind’Amour said. “Then when you had it in the playoffs it was obvious. It was like wow. You need to have that (depth). … You don’t really notice it until you don’t have it.”
Dougie Hamilton, Jake Bean and Jani Hakanpaa are gone and Jake Gardiner facing surgery, but the Canes brought in Bear, DeAngelo, Cole and Brendan Smith. Joey Keane, who played in Chicago last year, was in practice Thursday with the older guys.
The Hurricanes will have four preseason games — the first is Tuesday against Tampa Bay at PNC Arena. The Canes open the 2021-22 season on Oct. 14 against the New York Islanders. That’s go time.
“Three years ago we had a new group and I thought we played great right away,” Brind’Amour said. “I was shocked how well we played from day one.
“I’m hoping for the same kind of thing where it will come together nicely. We’ve got a lot of good players. It’s just a matter of fitting the pieces together.”
This story was originally published September 23, 2021 2:16 PM.