With most teams looking outside for ways in which to improve their team, the Hurricanes got their best piece of news from within their own roster.
On the day of the NHL trade deadline, Carolina captain Eric Staal returned to practice Monday for the first time since a high hit from Pittsburgh’s Matt Niskanen knocked him out of Friday’s game and caused him to miss the following night’s contest in Montreal.
Staal participated fully in the skate, on his normal place on a line with Erik Cole and Cory Stillman, and all indications are that he will play Tuesday against Florida.
“Barring anything that goes wrong tomorrow morning, I should be good to go tomorrow night,” he said following practice.
“He’s ready to play,” said coach Paul Maurice. “He felt good the next day after the (Pittsburgh) game and felt better the next day. He’s ready to go.”
That comes as excellent news for the Hurricanes, who would have had a much harder time hanging on to the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference without Staal, regardless of what else they do on deadline day.
Regarding his injury, it seemed as though Staal felt no ill will toward Niskanen, who was not penalized, fined or suspended in any way after a review from the NHL.
“The replay I don’t think gives justice to how hard it was,” said Staal. “It was such a quick play. I’m not sure if it looked like he was trying to avoid me once he realized I didn’t see him. He kind of pulled up a little bit and his hands got up high, and it looked like he didn’t want to fully finish because I was in a vulnerable position.”
As for the rest of the day, General Manager Jim Rutherford’s public desire to add a depth defenseman before 3 p.m. likely increased after the loss of defenseman Brett Carson. At noon, the Calgary Flames claimed the 25-year-old on waivers, meaning that he’ll head back to where he played junior hockey from 2002-2006 with the Western Hockey League’s Hitmen. He’ll also be reunited with a few former teammates in Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos, who the Hurricanes traded there in November.
“If I cleared waivers, I probably would have been back in the American League,” said Carson, referring to the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. “It’s a good to get another chance in the NHL, and hopefully I can prove to the Flames that I belong.”
“He gave us some good minutes when we had some injuries, and had a difficult time ever getting himself to the point where he would be penciled in for sure at the start, but he was a valuable depth guy for us,” said Maurice.
The move leaves the team with six NHL defensemen, including the recently-acquired Derek Joslin, who has impressed the team in recent games.
“He’s played very, very well, and he and (Jay) Harrison look like they have a chemistry almost immediately out there,” said Maurice, adding that Harrison will return from illness for Tuesday’s game. “They’re both willing to finish checks, and that’s for me the way your five-six pair should look at nights. If those two guys get on the ice against the other team’s top line, you’re not in a panic.”