As the Canes get set to finish their intense run of 10 games in 17 days tomorrow night at Atlanta, they won’t know until game time about the status of Sergei Samsonov and Scott Walker.
Walker is very close to returning from a month-long bout with a concussion and has been skating vigorously, often on his own, as the team takes breaks from full practices due to the crowded schedule. Samsonov’s injury is more recent, as an upper body injury caused him to be a late scratch for yesterday’s game against Buffalo. Both will make the trip to Atlanta, but Coach Paul Maurice said he wouldn’t know about their status until tomorrow evening.
When those players do come back, Maurice will have some difficult choices to make. Niclas Wallin would likely be the first player out of the lineup, as was the intention yesterday before it became evident that Samsonov couldn’t play. Wallin only logged 4:49 as the seventh defenseman against Buffalo.
After that, it gets very tricky. Tim Conboy has provided the team with a physical and emotional boost, while Michael Ryan, easily one of the fastest players on the ice, was rewarded for his recent effectiveness by a bump up to Eric Staal’s left wing against the Sabres, where he earned an assist on the Canes’ only goal.
“With young players it’s not as measurable because they’ve only been here for a short time, but they have added something when they’ve gone in,” said Maurice of Conboy and Ryan. “Young players can give you a burst, but eventually you need your top players back in the lineup. That being said, they will make it difficult.”