It certainly took long enough, but the flu bug that stormed its way through the Hurricanes locker room finally seems to be subsiding.
Defenseman Niclas Wallin is the only player currently battling the virus, and he will not make the team’s upcoming two-game trip through Toronto and Ottawa. Wallin initially started to feel ill prior to last Saturday’s game against Colorado, but battled through of ice time in the Canes 5-4 loss before apparently taking a turn for the worse.
The other members of the team’s sick bay, which included Wade Brookbank, Trevor Letowski, Glen Wesley and Ray Whitney at various times over the last week, have all managed to shake off the effects of the bug and have been practicing with the team.
While those four players should all be available for Tuesday night’s lineup, coach Peter Laviolette said that will depend on their ability to regain their strength.
”Whit’s back, although he’s down in weight and he looks like he’s coming off a serious illness,” he said. “He’s winded and tired and hopefully he continues to get better from day to day. Letowski the same thing, and Wes. They are coming off of a lot of days off and not much work.
”This is not your typical sniffles,” he added. “These guys are tough guys, they can play through just about anything, and they have been down and out. Go ask Ray Whitney if he’s a hundred percent and he’ll probably look at you like you’ve got four eyes. It’s going to be a process here to get these guys back on track.”
Three of the team’s injured players, Matt Cullen (non-flu illness), Bret Hedican (knee) and Scott Walker (knee), all practiced with the team on Monday morning and will make the trip through Ontario. Only Hedican wore a blue non-contact jersey, but Laviolette indicated neither had a good chance of playing in Toronto.
“I think that they’re close,” he said. “It doesn’t appear that any of them will play in the next game. Whether we get them into Ottawa, whether we wait until we get home or whether we wait until we get through these last two games and see where we’re at after that, it’s hard to say right now.”
With a healthier roster, the Hurricanes hope that they can recreate the success they had on their most recent road trip, where they went 2-1-0 and played well throughout, even in the 1-0 loss at St. Louis. They weren’t able to carry that momentum over to their next two games at home, where they lost two straight.
“We’re looking for better results period, no matter where we are,” said Eric Staal. “We didn’t get the job done at home and we need to get it done on the road. We need to be ready to play tomorrow night.”
Tuesday night’s game will be against a Maple Leafs squad that needs wins every bit as much as the Hurricanes do. With the team having only won twice in its last 13 games, rumors of changes at every level, including players, coaches and management, have been swirling.
There’s a lot of attention around the game, and obviously with them right now, there’s a lot more attention,” said Staal. Hopefully the negative energy on them will help us and result in a win.”