RALEIGH - The Carolina Hurricanes have opened preseason camp with a hole on the blue line and an eye on the playoffs.
The Hurricanes held their first practices of the preseason Thursday and among the priorities were building toughness and finding someone to replace injured defenseman Joni Pitkanen.
The team opened practice one day after learning Pitkanen will miss the season because the heel he broke in April has been slow to heal.
The first practice session ended with the players forming a ring around the center line.
They skated into the circle two at a time and went one-on-one for pucks in what's essentially hockey's version of the Oklahoma drill.
Captain Eric Staal says "a huge part of the game is winning those one-on-one battles."
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