What was once thought to be a promising recovery took a turn in the opposite direction.
Defenseman Joni Pitkanen will travel to Raleigh to undergo a CT scan on Thursday and might not be ready for the beginning of the regular season, according to Carolina Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford.
Pitkanen suffered a broken left calcaneus (heel) bone after crashing into the boards during the second period of an April 2 match against the Washington Capitals. He was originally projected to miss 10-12 weeks, healthy in time for the team’s upcoming training camp. That changed a week ago when Rutherford received news from Pitkanen’s agent.
“He was having trouble standing on [his heel],” Rutherford said. “We’re pretty sure he’s not starting the season. It’s a real serious injury, and this could go a long time.
“I’m getting prepared for the worst at this point.”
Pitkanen’s absence, length undetermined, leaves a hole in the Hurricanes’ defense. The 29-year-old blue-liner has averaged over 22 minutes of ice time per game since the 2005-06 season and was penciled into Carolina’s 2013-14 roster as a top-four defenseman.
“When you take a guy out of the lineup that played that many minutes, you really have to look at your defense,” Rutherford said. “What Kirk [Muller] might have to do is balance [the minutes] out more, which I do think we have a better chance of doing with the addition of [Andrej] Sekera and [Mike] Komisarek.”
The forthcoming updated prognosis could have an effect on how the Hurricanes plan to replace Pitkanen in the lineup, Rutherford said. The Finnish defenseman’s absence opens the door for a Ryan Murphy, who is entering his first full professional season, or a Brett Bellemore to make the team out of training camp. Given the right fit and a salary cap-friendly contract, the Canes could also opt to look outside of the organization.
“We don’t know how long it’s going to be that he’s going to be out. Is he going to be out a couple of weeks? A month? Half a year? A whole year? I don’t know,” Rutherford said. “So until we get a better idea of how long he’s out, we’re going to try to replace him with what we have.”