RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes began their preseason schedule with a 4-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at PNC Arena on Sunday.
Defenseman Andrej Sekera, along with forwards Riley Nash and Chris Terry all scored their first preseason goals as the Hurricanes outshot the Blue Jackets 32-19.
Goaltenders Cam Ward and Alex Nedeljkovic shared fairly equal ice time with the veteran Ward allowing three goals on 13 shots faced in 31 minutes while the rookie Nedeljkovic gave up one goal on six shots in 28 minutes.
Following only two days of on-ice work in training camp, the team’s A squad roster of players, minus captain Eric Staal, were put to their first test to see how much they had absorbed from head coach Bill Peters’ teachings.
“There was some good and there was some bad,” Peters said.
“We didn’t give up a lot of quantity, but we gave up some quality. I wasn’t very happy about the quality of the chances we gave up and we broke down, but a couple that are easy corrections that we can make and move forward.”
The good showed in Carolina’s power play, finishing two-for-five as Sekera and Terry posted those tallies.
The bad was evident in the defensive lapses that allowed Columbus’ Cam Atkinson to sneak in to beat Ward high, Nick Foligno’s rebound goal at the top of the crease on the power play, and Mike Hoeffel’s wrister from the high slot that went unchallenged.
Some more good showed in the play of prospects like forward Sergey Tolchinsky (15:20) and Haydn Fleury (15:02) who got regular ice time.
“It was a little bit hard,” Tolchinsky said about his first NHL game experience as part of training camp.
“Faster, different tactics, structure. Every day (I’m) getting better and getting into it.”
Tolchinsky even earned an assist, feeding Terry the puck on a cross-zone pass on the Hurricanes’ second power play that found him all alone to bring Carolina closer, trailing 4-3, with 7:52 to play in the game.
For Fleury, a minus-two outing showed the nerves he initially felt playing in his first pro game.
“It felt good,” Fleury said.
“At first I felt a bit nervous just before the game. I was a little bit tense. You see the guys you’re gonna’ dress with. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but after you get out there, start takin’ hits and makin’ plays, you get into it and you relax a bit. As the game went on, I felt I got stronger.”
“They got some good ice time – I think they got their eyes opened a little bit at times too,” Peters said with a smile when asked about both youngsters.
“That’s part of being a kid and growing. You’re gonna’ take your lumps in that situation, but that’s what it is at this time of year.”
As far as team execution and play, there was still much for the Hurricanes to wrap their heads around.
According to forward Jeff Skinner, who earned two assists on the Sekera and Nash goals respectively, the players’ biggest challenge was to understand how to execute, but also how to be able react to their opponents’ play.
“The effort was there as it should be,” Skinner said.
“There were sloppy things, but I think after two practices you can’t cover everything. It’s just not realistic. I think the execution was good, but could have been better in some places…There were just things we could tighten up on.”
“It’s always different when you go out against another team,” Skinner continued.
“You practice against your guys, but it’s always different when you get into a game – pucks are bouncin’ and stuff like that. I thought for the most part guys did a good job reacting out there and just playin’. I think you can get caught up in thinkin’ too much when you run through so many things over the last two days. You gotta’ go out there and react, so sometimes you have to shut your brain off and react, and not think too much.”
Peters saw the game much like Skinner did.
“I think the whole game was in spurts,” Peters said.
“They had a little bit of momentum in the second, I felt. I thought our power play was good, especially early. I love the fact that we were able to get shots established and the retrievals. But I thought we got a little sloppy with the puck. You know there’s plays to be made and we were a little slow, and when we did make ‘em, they were bouncin’ around a little bit or in guys’ feet. So I thought we could have executed quicker.”
The new coach understands there’s still much work to do, and he commended his players for sticking with it until the end, even though they couldn’t tie the score by the time the final horn sounded.
“The guys were good – the guys stayed with it,” Peters said.
“The guys believed. Our veterans believed and we kept pushin’. We played everybody and continued to play everybody to get a fair evaluation and a good viewing on these guys in games one and two.”