There was a bit of a surprise at today’s morning skate, as Erik Cole took the ice with the team for the first time since breaking a bone in his leg on October 3.
Although the team could use him, that shouldn’t raise hopes that he’ll be able to suit for tonight’s home game against the St. Louis Blues. Although he didn’t look noticeably out of place amongst his teammates, he was sporting a gold non-contact jersey and is still 1-3 weeks away from his initial prognosis.
”It was OK, but you never know until later tonight until tomorrow morning when you wake up,” said Cole after today’s skate. “Right now I feel pretty swollen, so we’ll see if it gets better throughout the day or not. You can’t sit there and say that I feel good I feel close when you haven’t pushed it as far as you need to.”
Coach Paul Maurice felt as though Cole’s presence alone could help give his struggling team a boost ahead of tonight’s game.
”He’s part of our group,” said Maurice. “When he’s back on the ice … it changes the mood a little bit.”
Maurice also said that he feels the Canes have taken significant strides over their last three games towards improving their offense, which should in turn benefit the rest of the team’s overall game.
"In the last eight periods of hockey, we were a lot better offensively and were generating more,” he said. “Because of that, there was a little bit more patience in our defensive game.”
Blues Coach Andy Murray sees a common ground between the early-season struggles of his team and the Canes
, as both haven’t gotten off to the start they envisioned after bringing back basically the same teams that found success last season.
”It’s the same thing for our guys,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’ve got to keep battling ourselves. I don’t think we can overreact.”
The similarities continue as both teams will have key players out of the lineup. In addition to Cole, Tim Gleason
is expected to miss another week with a rib injury while Tuomo Ruutu
will serve the second game of his three-game suspension tonight.
For St. Louis, Eric Brewer, Barret Jackman, Alex Steen, T.J. Oshie and D.J. King are out. After being victimized by Paul Stastny’s three points last Friday in Colorado, the Canes will face his older brother Yan tonight. The Blues recalled Yan Stastny
from Peoria of the AHL after Oshie’s recent emergency appendectomy
Those likenesses aside, the teams differ greatly in goal. While the Cam Ward
has started each of the Canes’ 10 games up until this point, the Blues have shared the workload between Chris Mason (six starts) and Ty Conklin (four starts). Conklin, a career backup who has played well in brief stints as a starter in Detroit and Pittsburgh, has slightly better numbers so far with a 2.40 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. Conklin started the most recent game, a 4-1 loss to Dallas, indicating that Mason may get the nod tonight.
If recent meetings are any indication, all goaltenders involved in tonight’s match-up have a chance to post good numbers. Carolina won both 2008-09 meetings by scores of 1-0 and 2-1, and dropped a 1-0 decision in St. Louis in the only meeting one year prior.
While citing how recent drafts have improved the overall talent level in St. Louis, Maurice doesn’t necessarily expect a shootout in tonight’s meeting either.
“I’m not sure that you’re going to see much more of an open game just because of where both teams are at this point in the season, but it should be fast,” he said. “They’ve got some good quickness up front.”
NHL.com: Preview: Hurricanes vs. Blues
CarolinaHurricanes.com: Something new for Brind’Amour, Sutter
News and Observer: Canes try a different combination
Canes Now: Staal and his ‘Crew’ take to the ice
NHL.com: Mason, Conklin give Blues solid goaltending
StLouisBlues.com: Blues recall Stastny from Peoria
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Blues battling inconsistency, injuries
Belleville News-Democrat: Blues still taking cautious approach with Pietrangelo