The Hurricanes got the piece of information they needed to make their final roster preparations on Thursday, as Sergei Samsonov has officially been ruled out with a neck injury.
According to coach Paul Maurice in recent days, Samsonov’s neck strain, suffered after crashing head-first into the boards Saturday in Atlanta, is not thought to be a long-term concern at this point.
“If no concussion symptoms present, it will be a matter of pain tolerance and soreness,” said Maurice on Wednesday. “The difficulty is that we don’t want to put a guy on a plane there and back that we don’t feel can play for sure. The plane ride is not going to do him any good, especially if there are some very slight concussion symptoms that don’t present themselves until we get there.”
Samsonov, who now misses the opportunity to play an NHL exhibition in his home country this coming Monday, will be re-assessed when the team returns with an eye on playing the Oct. 14 game at Ottawa.
Moving Samsonov to injured reserve allows the Hurricanes an extra roster spot for their European journey. It’s unclear as to exactly which player will be making the trip that would not have otherwise, but 20-year-old rookie Zac Dalpe could have been in that conversation.
As it stands now, Dalpe, who impressed teammates during pre-camp informal skates at the RecZone and impressed coaches and management after that, will get an opportunity to audition for the fourth-line center role on the team.
“Coming into camp I honestly didn’t know how many guys they could take to Europe, but that was obviously a goal,” he said. “I’m happy to be a part of the trip, and hopefully I can stay and impress the coaches a little more.”
Dalpe, who joined the Hurricanes’ American Hockey League affiliate in Albany at the end of last season after his sophomore year at Ohio State, said that the decision to arrive early for summer workouts in Raleigh had a positive effect on his training camp performance.
“Coming into camp I didn’t know how everyone was going to be, but I think the month or three weeks I spent before got me comfortable with the guys,” he said. “You know them by their nickname and it’s not like you’re intimidated by them.”
For Friday’s game against Atlanta, Maurice will use Dalpe as a center on a line with Patrick Dwyer and Jiri Tlusty. Since both Dalpe and Dwyer are capable of playing all three forward positions, it’s not yet clear as to who may end up in a long term spot down the middle.
“I like Dwyer for his experience at that position, but I think Dalpe is going to be a very fine NHL center,” said Maurice.
“I’m a young guy and I’m here, so I’ll play wherever they want,” said Dalpe, who played on the wing at the recent Traverse City prospects tournament. “I’ve played more center than the wing in my career, but I really don’t have a preference.”
The next two exhibitions will also be key for Tlusty as he works his way back into game fitness following a long summer of rehab on his surgically-repaired knee. Having only been cleared to fully join practices this past Tuesday, the Czech winger acknowledged that he had some work to do to catch up.
“I had a tough skate (Wednesday), but it was good because I needed it,” he said. “It was rough and I felt pretty bad afterwards, but I feel much better now.”
Having emerged from his first few instances of contact unscathed and pain-free, Tlusty said that he was looking forward to playing against Atlanta and in the Oct. 4 exhibition game in St. Petersburg, which will be his final two chances to earn a spot for the first regular-season game in Helsinki. As of now, he could have a tough time displacing the likes of Dalpe and Dwyer.
“Every day I make a little step and feel better and better,” he said. “I can’t wait to test it out during the games.”