BUFFALO - Erik Haula will return to the Carolina Hurricanes' lineup when they take on the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
Haula has missed the last four games with discomfort in his surgically repaired right knee that he said first began to nag him after the Canes' three-game road trip through California in mid-October.
"From there, it went a little bit downhill," he said. "It got to the point where it was hard to put weight on that foot. Getting back to where it's all right and not going to hurt, the last couple of skates were great."
The good news is that there is no structural damage to his knee, but tendonitis caused enough soreness and discomfort and forced Haula out of the lineup for a week-and-a-half.
"I knew that might happen," he said. "Jumping in and playing NHL games at the pace of the NHL schedule, it could cause some things. … Hopefully now it's past us and we can keep on moving forward."
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Haula returns still tied for the team lead in goals (8), perhaps a boon to an offense that, prior to dropping an eight-spot on Ottawa earlier this week, had struggled to finish with regularity.
"When he was playing he was pretty effective for us just getting to the net," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "That's obviously where he scored his goals, and he was a big part of our offense when he was in there."
The Canes plan to ease Haula back into game action. The 28-year-old centered Brock McGinn and Brian Gibbons on the team's fourth line in the morning skate. Haula has recorded two goals and two assists in seven career games against Buffalo.
"I don't know how effective he's going to be. He's been out for a long time, so we'll manage his minutes a little bit and see how it goes," Brind'Amour said. "Hopefully he'll pick up where he left off."
Where Haula left off was with a two-point performance (1g, 1a) against New Jersey on Nov. 2. Now, after resting and ensuring his knee hadn't been structurally compromised, Haula is ready to get back at it, a welcome addition for the Canes.
"You have to know your body. You have to know when you can and when you can't, what's smart and what's not smart," he said. "I just want to be out there helping the team win."