First, a few injury notes from Friday’s practice, which was the last before an honest-to-goodness road trip that doesn’t involve midnight travel after a home game:
practiced with the team for the second consecutive day, indicating that all went well for him after a full session on Thursday. He will make the trip to face the New Jersey Devils regardless, and if he continues to feel good tomorrow, Coach Paul Maurice said there’s a chance that he may play.Eric Staal
was the only absence from practice (besides Erik Cole and Michael Ryan, of course), marking the second consecutive day that he’s stayed off the ice. He also sat out the day before the most recent contest against Pittsburgh, but played the following night. Maurice said that will again be the case tomorrow.
”We’re trying to get him back to 100 percent,” said Maurice. “Could he have practiced yesterday and today? Absolutely. It’s not like we’re just trying to get him through the next game. We’ve got a couple of blocks here where if we can get him to 100 percent that we do.”
Despite having already played two sets of back-to-back games, it has been an unusually spread out schedule for the Canes thus far. They haven’t yet had to play three games in four nights (that happens next week) and will have had three separate three-day breaks before the end of October. What that amounts to is more potential “maintenance” days such as yesterday’s, which saw Matt Cullen, Cam Ward
and Ray Whitney sit out only to return today.
The schedule has also prevented the team from taking a more traditional road swing with a relaxed afternoon flight and a full night spent in a different city until now, which Maurice believes will do the team some good.
”We’re probably the only team in the league that hasn’t had a real road trip yet,” he said. “We’ve had two road games, but then you’re flying after and we didn’t stay overnight or go out. This is the first time guys will be able to go out to dinner and get to know each other a bit, because we do have some new guys.”
Although the New Jersey game is just a single-game trip, it is actually the first of four consecutive road games for Carolina. The team may regret longing for time spent on the road after playing in New York (Islanders), Colorado and Minnesota during a four-day stretch next week.
The Devils play at home tonight against Atlanta, a situation that the Canes can empathize with after playing rested teams on the second half of each of their previous back-to-back contests, losses in Boston in Tampa Bay. The media in New Jersey is wondering if the Devils may look past the Thrashers in preparation of a playoff rematch against the Canes (Carolina will have played all three playoff opponents from last season in the first seven games of 2009-10), but the Devils are saying the right things, anyway.
"Obviously you're still a little upset, but it's over and it's done with," Zach Parise told the New Jersey Star-Ledger. "It's a different team here now. You can't concern yourself with what happened last year. Just make sure we play well against them."
With Martin Brodeur set to make the start tonight, there’s a chance the Canes will be the opponent for backup Yann Danis’ first start as a Devil, although the lack of travel in between games may leave Brodeur feeling good enough to play both.