If nothing else, the Hurricanes should at least be able to dress 20 players for Saturday’s 1:30 matinee against Vancouver.
Minus an ill Michael Leighton, the Canes had a full roster for Friday’s practice, including Chad LaRose and Jussi Jokinen. LaRose had not skated with the team since the November 27 game against Atlanta with a lower-body injury, while Jokinen had not yet practiced this week.
If all of the team’s forwards can play, which isn't a certainty despite the well-attended practice, one will be the odd man out as a healthy scratch. Today’s lines weren’t a big help in determining who that might be, as Jokinen and Sergei Samsonov rotated on the left side of Matt Cullen and Tuomo Ruutu.
“We’re going to wait until tomorrow, because we’re not sure how healthy everybody is,” said Coach Paul Maurice. “We have a number of players who are feeling pretty good and feeling like they’re close, so we’ll see how they wake up after today’s skate and make a decision tomorrow.”
While Leighton is considered day-to-day at this point, Maurice said that Manny Legace would get the start in goal against Vancouver – his first appearance since Nov. 27.
Defensive pairings were set, with Maurice saying that Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen would see more minutes (“if that’s possible,” he said) in attempting to shut down the opposition’s best forwards. In Saturday’s case, that means twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin along with winger Alex Burrows.
Bryan Rodney was at practice following his third recall of the young season, this one coming only three days after his most recent reassignment to Albany of the AHL. He’ll be paired with Niclas Wallin, a match that Maurice says has developed some chemistry, but won’t necessarily be the team’s long-term solution to Joe Corvo’s prolonged injury absence.
“When you lose Joe Corvo you lose power play minutes, and that’s something Bryan can do,” said Maurice. “We’ve got a couple of other guys in the minors that just aren’t as far along in their development, so we may see other players over a period of time and maybe a platoon.”
Other candidates for the recall were Jay Harrison and Brett Carson, each of whom have some NHL experience but don’t fit the puck-moving mold like Rodney.
Addressing the most recent addition to the Hurricanes organization, Jiri Tlusty, Maurice said he remembered the 21-year-old winger as a smart player with good hands from their previous time together with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the AHL Toronto Marlies.
“He’s a little bit like [Brandon] Sutter in terms of you didn’t have to teach him a lot defensively,” said Maurice. “He has a real good grasp of the game, good hands and can make some plays. He’s not going to blow the doors off anybody with his speed, but he’s a good, smooth skater.”
Asked how Tlusty would eventually develop, Maurice said that could go in a few different directions.
“He has good hands, so if that continues on maybe he gets himself into the top six and into power play minutes,” said Maurice. “He’s a smart defensive player, so if that develops even more he can become a bit of a shutdown guy.”