Although losing Erik Cole for around a month has come as a small shock to the Hurricanes, players and coaches alike kept pointing to the team’s off-season additions as a reason they should pull through.
“When you have to miss a month that’s tough, but more for him than us because I think we’re going to be alright,” said captain Rod Brind’Amour. “We’ve got enough depth here to overcome it.”
“We’re going to face this whether it’s Erik Cole or whoever,” said Coach Paul Maurice. “We’re going to lose guys over the course of the year. We talked about depth over the summer and adding guys, and we feel like we have enough players to play with a strong offensive game.”
In Cole’s absence, the Canes used a top line of Eric Staal, Sergei Samsonov and Tuomo Ruutu at Monday’s practice. That trio played together for a significant chunk of last season, right up until Cole was re-acquired from Edmonton at the trade deadline (full lines here). Safe to say, there’s some familiarity there.
“I’m not worried,” said Staal. “Obviously [Cole] is a good player and he brings a lot to the table, but I can still be successful whether he’s on my wing or not. We’ll obviously miss him when he‘s gone, but we’ll be alright without him.”
“We’re going to miss Erik and certainly his speed, but somehow Eric Staal
was a good player without him and we expect Eric to still be able to perform,” said Maurice.
While players have moved up to replace Cole on the top line, Maurice said he isn’t yet sure about who will enter the lineup in his stead. It could be as simple as Joni Pitkanen
’s return from knee surgery (Maurice was “hopeful” of that), which could lead the team to keep Jay Harrison
in the lineup and dress seven defensemen. The team could also put Tim Conboy into the lineup as a fourth-line forward, where he practiced on Monday.
”We’ll just take it day by day before any of those long-term decisions on how this all fits together,” said Maurice.
Another wild card could be the health of Scott Walker, who missed Monday’s skate with an illness.
“We’re so paranoid about that going through the team now,” said Maurice, whose team has had to deal with a few separate flu outbreaks in recent years. “I expect him in the lineup. We just didn’t want him kissing anybody in the room.”
Monday’s practice was much more upbeat and featured a lot more chatter than the previous day’s session as the Canes attempt to rebound from their season-opening skid. It also included some special teams work, which has been a major problem for the team thus far. The power play (1-for-18; 5.6 percent) and penalty kill (7-for-13; 54 percent) share equal blame.
”Our special teams are not very special right now,” said Maurice.
As stated yesterday, the Canes are hoping an adjustment to how they approach the entire game in general will trickle down to those areas.
“This is not a technical issue,” said Maurice. “It’s an aggressiveness issue, and that’s [also] true of our five-on-five.”