When a member of one famous hockey family began its second generation, the offspring of another fittingly took his place.
Hurricanes center Eric Staal
missed Wednesday’s practice after his son, Parker Lucas Staal, was born one day earlier. Centering the top line in his stead was training camp standout Brandon Sutter
, whose own NHL bloodlines are well documented.
Skating with top offensive players like Ray Whitney and Erik Cole was a definite first for Sutter, an up-until-now checking center, but it may not be the last as the Hurricanes continue to evaluate the 20-year-old in his quest to earn a roster spot. General Manager Jim Rutherford said yesterday that a spot amongst the top nine forwards was a possibility for Sutter, making that something to keep an eye on as he plays in one or both of the team’s two remaining exhibition games.
For Head Coach Paul Maurice, Sutter’s first positive impression came earlier this month during the Hurricanes’ victory at the NHL prospects tournament in Traverse City.
“He took the prospects camp seriously, went in and worked hard and showed just a great attitude,” said Maurice. “He showed a lot of character, because after you’ve played 50 games in the NHL sometimes you don’t think you need to be there. He didn’t show any of that, which is a real sign of maturity.”
Throw in two high-quality preseason games into the mix, and the Hurricanes now have something to think about.
“He played very, very well and was one of the better players on the ice,” said Maurice of Sutter’s play in Monday’s Atlanta game, during which he scored a shorthanded goal. “I think that’s fair to say.”
The Canes are planning to dress their NHL roster for Friday night’s home game against the Thrashers, although Sutter could still be involved. Injuries may have something to do with the eventual lineup, with Jussi Jokinen participating fully in the last two practices after being limited by a finger injury for week one.
Also on the shelf are Michael Ryan (probable concussion) and Joni Pitkanen (knee surgery). Maurice said last week that he expected Pitkanen back for Tuesday’s practice, which ended up being cancelled, but the big Finn still did not participate on Wednesday.
While those are the only known injuries among the 27 players still in camp, something else could always pop up between now and Friday.
“We’ll see how many more babies we have around here,” joked Maurice.Besides the obvious insertion of Sutter into Staal’s spot, the forward lines were a little different on Wednesday than they had been for much of camp. The combinations:
|Whitney - Sutter - Cole |
|Jokinen - Cullen - Ruutu |
|Samsonov - Brind'Amour - LaRose |
|Kostopoulos - Yelle - Walker |
|Boychuk - Dwyer - Conboy |