There was some good news from Monday’s practice, as center Brandon Sutter
was able to resume skating with the team for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury against Pittsburgh last Thursday.
Sutter missed one game due to the ailment, a 4-0 loss against Phoenix, but is not expected to miss any more. Tim Gleason should also be in the lineup Tuesday against Boston despite having to miss Monday’s skate to an undisclosed concern.
As much as the Hurricanes seemed to lament the loss of Sutter’s contributions at both ends of the ice – who could have predicted that would be the case when this year started – they’ll be happy to return some normalcy to their lineup. Sutter’s absence caused more shuffling of the lines than the team would have preferred, which returned unfavorable results during the shutout loss despite some stellar goaltending from the Coyotes’ Ilya Bryzgalov.
“We didn’t want to break up LaRose, Ruutu and Sutter because they had been playing well and the other lines had scored some goals,” said Maurice. “We didn’t want to make adjustments.”
”I would think this would be a good, hard-fought game tomorrow,” said Maurice. “This will be as close to a playoff game as we’ve played all year.”
With Sutter out, the Hurricanes moved Jussi Jokinen
to center his line and Erik Cole up to take Jokinen’s place with Eric Staal
– a chain reaction that shook up the top three units. Those changes were undone at Monday’s practice, with the lines reverting to how they were prior to Sutter’s injury
If there is to be any further tweaking, it may be with the first unit of Staal, Jokinen and Ray Whitney that hasn’t scored with regularity the way it did prior to the Olympics. Maurice said he had already considered making a change there, but held off so as not to disrupt the chemistry of the other lines.
One possible move could be moving Tuomo Ruutu
to center, which is still listed as one of his official positions despite having played only limited time there during his Hurricanes career. Maurice has alluded to that possibility several times in the past, and liked what he saw during an experiment conducted near the end of the Phoenix game.
”I liked Ruutu when he went to center ice in the third period,” Maurice said. “I thought made us a little better down low and a little stronger, so we may have to go to that.”
The Hurricanes will go to Manny Legace as their starting goaltender against Boston. Justin Peters
had earned the two previous starts for Carolina, giving each netminder an even six starts since Cam Ward
exited the lineup with a back injury.
”We’ve really been as close to a rotation as you can get without it being a pure rotation and it seems to have worked well for us,” said Maurice. “Our goaltending going back to Cam’s injury has just been fantastic.”
If the Hurricanes are to have any hopes of making a dream run for a playoff place, beating the Bruins is an absolute must. Besides needing 25 of a possible 28 points to have a good chance of getting in (according to Sports Club Stats
), the Hurricanes would likely need to overtake Boston, who holds the East’s final playoff berth.