Checkers players won’t have much time to demonstrate their game-readiness this preseason, but they’ll try to make the most of it.
Following Friday’s practice at Extreme Ice Center, the team will depart for a two-game exhibition set in Norfolk. The two games, the first of which takes place Saturday night and the second on Sunday afternoon, mark the only games on the team’s preseason schedule.
While that’s not unusual for an AHL camp – the Checkers hosted Lake Erie on back-to-back days last season, but that was it – many players would normally have a few NHL games under their belt by this point. This year, the cancelation of NHL camps has made that impossible.
“These next few games are going to be important for guys who want to get into our lineup,” said coach Jeff Daniels. “Even for guys that we know are going to be here, it’ll be important to determine how much ice time they’re going to get.”
To help fill the void caused by the absence of an NHL camp, the Checkers did hold two red/white scrimmages earlier this week.
“The games might be a little faster but the scrimmages this week were pretty good,” said forward Jared Staal. “There aren’t many spots (on the team) out there, so guys are pushing it every day.”
Still, they might not be a perfect substitute.
“Guys were battling out there but it’s not the same,” said Daniels. “They were a still a little buddy-buddy at times.”
Daniels said that all 31 players remaining on his roster after yesterday’s cuts would play at least one game. Some will obviously play two, with Daniels doing his best to balance the need to evaluate with the need to prepare. Additional cuts will likely come soon after, with the team scheduled to hold just three more practices next week before departing for the regular-season opener in Houston.
“We’ll have some tough decisions to make this weekend,” said Daniels.