The Carolina Hurricanes played their next-to-last preseason game Friday night against the visiting Nashville Predators. In a game they lost in overtime, 2-1, there were high points and points that still need to improve as the start of the 2019-20 season looms large next week.
The Hurricanes played what is likely to be most of their season-beginning roster. Head coach Rod Brind’Amour told the media after the game that there was definitely “game rust” evident in the play of some of his squad.
“We had a couple of guys play really well and a couple of guys were really rusty. That’s what you can see… A lot of game rust. That’s what happens. A lot of these guys just haven’t played much. You could just see it wasn’t quite clicking.”
Mrázek and Reimer
Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrázek played well. He played 40 minutes and saved all 19 of the shots that he faced. Brind’Amour told the media that “he looked pretty good” and that he and the coaching staff will decide if he’s ready for opening night or needs to play in the team’s final preseason tilt on Sunday. After the game, Mrázek told the media:
“I was happy to be out there. It’s so different than being in practice. Happy to be in a game in front of the guys.”
As the season draws near, Mrázek is the proverbial wild card in the mix for the Hurricanes. Can he be consistent, and do so without knowing that he can rely on Curtis McElhinney to pick him up, if needed? Last season Mrázek and McElhinney combined to have a season akin to one very good goaltender, each stepping in and playing well when needed.
McElhinney is gone and James Reimer and Anton Forsberg are backstopping Mrázek, although it is not likely the team will carry three goaltenders into the season. Reimer says he is ready to work hard and have fun, and it appears that the team will go with him as the backup.
However, that is not etched in stone. He saw 11 shots from the Predators Friday night and stopped 9, giving up the tying goal in the third period and the winning goal in overtime. Regardless of who the backup is, Mrázek will have to step up in a big way, shaking off the past inconsistency that has marked his career.
Edmundson a Pleasant Surprise
Joel Edmundson was recently acquired from the St. Louis Blues in the trade that sent Justin Faulk on his way. He did not seem to have any rust growing on his game, as he notched an assist on the Hurricanes only goal scored by Jordan Staal. He also had a hit and four blocked shots. Brind’Amour told the media, “I thought Joel had a really good game for stepping in, not really having a good understanding of what we’re doing. He seemed to pick it up pretty quick. I thought he was a pleasant surprise there.”
Edmundson looked good Friday night. But, it’s one game in the preseason. Still, it’s a very positive sign that he basically got off a plane, suited up, hit the ice and played very well. He is an added piece to the Hurricanes’ puzzle that should help them maintain one of the strongest defensive units in the NHL.
Jordan Staal the Leader
Even though Justin Williams technically still has a “C” on his sweater, Jordan Staal has been a key leader on the Hurricanes for years. He’s worn an “A” and was a co-captain with Faulk two years ago. He scored Friday night against the Predators and after the game said, “It starts now, it hasn’t been sharp enough. I think the work ethic at times has been there but still needs to be higher from everyone.”
The Hurricanes are sort of limping towards the start of the season. They have several players out who are dealing with injuries. Brind’Amour said that they are close to the team’s regular-season lineup. Their last preseason game is Sunday at home against the Washington Capitals. And then things get real on Thursday, Oct. 3 as the Hurricanes welcome the Montreal Canadiens to PNC Arena for their season-opener.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.