As well as recent American Hockey League recalls Zach Boychuk
and Zac Dalpe
have played in the Hurricanes’ last few games, coach Paul Maurice was facing a difficult decision on whether to keep using them or sit a veteran.
Or, maybe not.
“It wouldn’t have been that hard,” he said. “When you’ve got young guys skating and playing hard, those decisions on who you take out aren’t that difficult.”
That response, which demonstrates both confidence in Boychuk and Dalpe, 21-year-olds who scored two of the Hurricanes’ three goals in Monday’s overtime loss to the Florida Panthers, and dissatisfaction with a veteran or two. Either way, he ended up not having to make that call, as Jussi Jokinen will not be able to return from a lower-body injury as originally hoped.
Jokinen, along with forward Jiri Tlusty and defenseman Joni Pitkanen, will miss at least the next two games by not making the road trip to face the New York Rangers and Florida on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.
“Before the skate yesterday that’s the way it looked, but after the skate he didn’t feel as confident,” said Maurice of Jokinen’s chances of playing Wednesday. “We’re not going to bring any of those three players with us because we don’t expect them to play in Florida or New York.”
While Maurice said he wasn’t sure whether Boychuk and Dalpe could keep at their current pace for the entire season (“It’s probably a situation where they’re going to be worked in and out,” he said), their play in recent games was certainly good enough to keep them in the NHL. Boychuk has 4 points in 4 games since working his way off the fourth line in Toronto last week, while Dalpe has goals in two consecutive games since his recall from Charlotte this past Friday.
“We’re trying to win games,” said Maurice, whose team has done just that in seven of its past 11 contests. “They have to earn that right, but if they do, I’m not going to hold a guy back because of his age. Those guys skate, they’re hitting and they’re banging. The one thing is that I’m pretty sure they’ll be better next year. If they take somebody older’s ice time, they take it. That’s just the way this works.”
Maurice’s comments from the past few days, which included a belief that ice time was most readily available at the left wing position and a direct statement of displeasure with the player himself, seem to make Sergei Samsonov the most likely candidate. Still, he wasn’t naming names on Tuesday.
“There’s no sense in throwing a guy under the bus when you’ve got to put him on the bus the next night,” he said.
The Hurricanes held a limited practice on Tuesday with a small handful of players, including Tlusty, who continued to skate in a non-contact jersey.