While Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice used last week’s extended break for some tough, grinding practices, he may not have that luxury this time around.
In addition to goaltenders Cam Ward and Justin Peters, just eight skaters were able to take the ice Monday at the RecZone, as others were held back for various minor injuries.
The situation isn’t quite as dire as it may seem, as Maurice said that a number of players were held out for maintenance and that the group should be mostly back to normal by Tuesday.
“We’re on the edge with a bunch of guys,” he said, adding that the injury situation was not much different prior to Saturday’s loss in Nashville. “If we had had a game tonight, I don’t think we would have had to bring up a bunch of players.”
Although there’s no guarantee everyone will be healthy in time for Friday’s game at Dallas, Maurice didn’t seem to have any long-term concerns.
“It’s nothing out of the ordinary,” he said. “There’s always something that guys are playing through.”
The healthy few on Monday were Troy Bodie, Joe Corvo, Jay Harrison, Jussi Jokinen, Jamie McBain, Jeff Skinner, Brandon Sutter and Jiri Tlusty. In lieu of a traditional team practice, the group held an informal scrimmage with a tennis ball.
Workouts should get at least somewhat tougher throughout the week, although Maurice said he had no intention of practicing each day before the team returns to action on Friday for the first of back-to-games, the second of which takes place in St. Louis. The current plan is to practice Tuesday and Thursday with a rest day on Wednesday.
When more players do return to the ice, Maurice said he would likely make changes to his forward lines, which he altered completely beginning with the second period in Nashville. The new groupings wouldn’t necessarily mimic those, as health seems to have played a factor in cutting back ice time for certain players.
What Maurice is able to put together on Tuesday will depend on who’s able to skate, but he did have one set combination in mind.
“We’d like to get Skinner, Sutter and Cole together, because I’d like to see Sutter work with more offensive guys,” he said.
That move would bump Tuomo Ruutu to another line and possibly out of the center position altogether, as he spent some time on the right wing with Eric Staal on Saturday. Sutter had recently been playing with Patrick Dwyer and Jussi Jokinen.
Another area of emphasis this week will be the power play, which has gone 0-13 over a four-game stretch dating back to the Nov. 26 game in Boston, when the Hurricanes converted all three chances. The Canes were 0-4 with just four total shots against Nashville.
“We’ll get after that tomorrow,” said Maurice. “We’ve spent too much time in the initial setup and aren’t as aggressive as we need to be with getting the pucks to the net.”