It remains to be seen whether or not a spot will actually be available on the opening night roster, but a few rookie defensemen in the Carolina Hurricanes’ system may at least be forcing a discussion.
Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy, puck-moving blueliners drafted in 2010 and 2011, respectively, fared well as a pairing in the Hurricanes’ 3-2 loss to Nashville in Raleigh on Friday night. While far less experienced than the rest of the night’s defensive corps – the other duos featured well-established NHL players – they did not seem out of place in just their second taste of major-league play.
“I really liked them,” said coach Paul Maurice. “We put two guys playing in their second NHL exhibition games together for a reason – to see how they would handle that defensive zone coverage. I don’t think when you look back and assessed the game … that you’d rate them by their age.”
Neither player registered a point in over 20 minutes of ice time, as both goals belonged to the NHL’s team’s first line and even more specifically to Alexei Ponikarovsky. However, each was able to create something while playing solid in this own end.
Murphy, who as an 18-year-old will not be eligible to play in Charlotte this season, was the flashier of the two, showing plenty of shifty one-on-one moves and the ability to beat players with his skating. Faulk, who made his professional debut during the Checkers’ playoff run last season and would start there again this season should he not crack the Canes’ roster, made more subtle passing plays to help his team generate offensive pressure.
“Both of my games didn’t really go how we wanted them to as a team (the other was a 3-1 loss in Buffalo), but personally I felt good,” said Faulk. “I definitely don’t feel lost or anything like that.”
Along with the more experienced Bobby Sanguinetti, who did not play Friday night, Faulk and Murphy will still face an uphill battle to make the Hurricanes, as the team currently has seven defensemen under one-way NHL contracts. Other than Derek Joslin, who only recently joined the fun at training camp after missing the first week with an illness, all currently boast a clean bill of health.
Still, both players seem to be doing everything that they can to get noticed.
Other roster hopefuls participating in Friday’s game included Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk, Riley Nash, Brett Sutter and Chris Terry. Bowman and Boychuk each came close on scoring chances during what was an otherwise flat second period for the Canes, while Sutter featured on the penalty kill and won several battles in the corners. Terry, who the Hurricanes drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 Entry Draft, was playing in his first NHL preseason game.
The game featured a few minor injuries that could affect the Hurricanes’ lineup for Sunday’s exhibition game against Winnipeg at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte. Tim Brent and Tuomo Ruutu each left Friday’s game with lower-body injuries and did not return.