RALEIGH, N.C. – The first on-ice sessions at Carolina Hurricanes training camp featured high-pace, non-stop movement at PNC Arena on Friday.
There was no other way that the beginning of new head coach Bill Peters’ tenure in Carolina would start than to get all 51 players on the team’s camp roster moving fast and often.
“I thought it was good,” Peters said.
“I think we got some work done today. We definitely addressed the forechecking, we definitely addressed the entries, and I thought Roddie’s (Brind’Amour) power play was well done on good ice.”
For every player, it was a chance to show what they had to offer and were willing to do to in order to impress the coach.
The first to do that was returning goaltender Anton Khudobin.
Beginning at 8:55 a.m., Group A which included Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal and Elias Lindholm were skating fast, making tape-to-tape passes, and putting pucks on Khudobin, Daniel Altshuller, and Alex Nedeljkovic.
At 9:07 a.m., many took notice and held their breath, including Peters, as Khudobin took a high shot to his left shoulder and caused the action to stop at his end of the rink.
The Russian keeper eventually shook it off after taking a brief break, with the practice picking right back up at the level Peters had set it at.
“He got hit pretty good there and he got hit again right after in the same spot, so I was thinkin’ ‘here we go again’,” Peters said of the possibility of losing one of his top goalies early on.
“He’s fine. He’s a tough kid. I thought he was gonna’ leave the net. We had a third goalie out there. I thought we’d bring the third guy in and continue on, but he wasn’t givin’ up his net. I like that.”
Skinner liked what he saw from Peters and from the group in general throughout the session.
“It was high tempo,” Skinner said.
“Not a lot of sittin’ around which is nice to sort of get your lungs goin’ and your legs under you. It was a good practice.”
The large number of players who were divided into two smaller groups, A and B, were specifically sorted and organized by Peters and his staff to be prepared to play preseason games which begin on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t read a whole bunch into any of the lines, but I would read a whole bunch into what we’ve done to split our squad,” Peters said.
“We’ve balanced our team into two different groups. The group that went on first here today is gonna’ play Sunday against Columbus, and the group that went on second is gonna’ play the first game on the road.”
It was evident that Peters had laid out the competitive conditions that veterans and prospects alike would be playing under in order to eventually earn full-time roster spots.
“With 51 bodies, we’ve got good depth in our organization, we’ve done a good job with some of our young guys coming along,” Peters said.
“The McGinns, the Rasks and those guys, and obviously we’re currently excited about our current draft class. I thought they played real well in Traverse City. It’s competitive. You’ve gotta’ earn your opportunity, and when you get your opportunity, you gotta’ take advantage of it. If you make the team, then you’re gonna’ get more ice time. Guys always want more, more, and more – so keep workin’ hard, keep gettin’ better, and when you deserve it, you’ll get it. Take advantage of it – it’s a competitive situation.”
Like Skinner, Staal also appreciated his new coach’s approach, and understood that little time will ever be wasted under his direction.
“I don’t think we’re gonna’ have a lot of breaks between drills, once we get started for real,” Staal said.
“I think that’s just the way he is. He’s a detailed, up-tempo type of coach. He’s gonna’ be having us be on pace when the year starts, which is good. I like that.”