It was another small group at Monday’s practice, with a group of six players sitting out for the second consecutive day.
Matt Cullen, Joni Pitkanen, Sergei Samsonov, Eric Staal, Cam Ward and Ray Whitney were all rested as the Canes find themselves in the middle of yet another three-day break between games. With that many players dealing with minor ailments, Coach Paul Maurice felt as though it was best to hold them out both Sunday and Monday in order to have a more vigorous practice on Tuesday.
”We had a number of players that aren’t at 100 percent,” said Maurice. “With the way we’re playing we’d like our whole team out there working, but we just have to have these (injured) players get better so that we can squeeze them harder in games. We had a small group yesterday and small group today, but we’re hoping to have the majority of players out there tomorrow.”
Given the amount of players held out for precautionary reasons, it was encouraging to see Aaron Ward back on the ice after his early exit from Saturday’s loss in New Jersey. He participated in the full session, and like the players who have been sitting out practice, is not expected to miss any game time.
Maurice felt that Cam Ward didn’t need the day of practice, as he’s been worked hard enough after appearing in each of the Canes’ seven games. Maurice said on Sunday that Michael Leighton would make a start for the Canes on their upcoming three-game road trip, likely either Friday at Colorado or Saturday at Minnesota.“He got all the shots he needed,” said Maurice of Ward. “We didn’t plan on running him three days in a row, especially when a big part of your focus is to score goals and put pucks in the net. Your goaltender usually takes the brunt of that.”