Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said he was hopeful that Brandon Sutter
could return from a lower-body injury to play against the Phoenix Coyotes at the RBC Center on Saturday.
Sutter was forced to leave Thursday night’s win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first period and did not return. Although there is still plenty of uncertainty about whether or not he will be able to play, tests will be done today and he could not be ruled out as of this morning.
If Sutter is deemed unavailable, which would mark his only injury-related absence of the season and first since last year’s scary hit from Doug Weight of the New York Islanders, the Hurricanes would look to bring a winger up from the AHL. Oskar Osala
, who played Wednesday at Washington but was a late scratch the next night due to Erik Cole’s return to health, has returned to Albany.
”How we set the lines based on Sutter being out, we’ll decide what best position for us to bring in, whether it’s a left or right winger,” said Maurice.
That means Jussi Jokinen
would likely center the second line in Sutter’s place, having moved to that position mid-game Thursday. Cole then moved up to Eric Staal
’s right wing, a move Maurice said was designed to add speed.
If a recall is needed, any number of players that have seen time with Carolina this season are available, but it is worth noting that Jerome Samson
is enjoying his best stretch in an already-productive season. The right wing has 18 points in his last 11 games, having failed to find the score sheet just once during that span. He was recently named AHL Player of the Week for his efforts, and his 61 points give him a 23-point lead over the team’s second-highest scorer, rookie Chris Terry
The Hurricanes did not practice today, having earned the rest by taking three of a possible four points from the Eastern Conference’s top two teams on back-to-back nights.
”I was pleased with how hard we fought, because a back-to-back against those kinds of teams and the way they skate is just not easy,” said Maurice. “You’re kind of hoping that when you hit one the elite teams like Pittsburgh that they don’t come out as hard and aggressive as they’re capable, because it’s not the same kind of game for them and they’re looking at (playing New Jersey the next night), but they didn’t. They played hard and they played well.”
As long as the Hurricanes are playing so well, having won 14 of their last 19 while closing the playoff gap to just eight points, more off days could be on the horizon. It’s easy to chalk up the team’s 16 games this month due to schedule compression caused by the Olympic break, but Maurice said he’s used to a hectic finish to the year.
”We’re playing every second night, most teams are, so it’s even and I don’t feel right now that it’s any different than last year,” he said. “I felt (the compression) earlier where there were some games jammed up where usually you would have bigger blocks.”
In the Coyotes, the Hurricanes take on what is undoubtedly this year’s surprise team. After a summer of turmoil and uncertainty about its future, Phoenix has risen to fourth place in the Western Conference under coach of the year favorite Dave Tippett.
“They play a game like Florida with some finish and they work really hard,” said Maurice. “They’ve got good goaltending and went out and added a bunch of players at the deadline. They’re a good hockey team.”