Scott Walker went through his first full practice with the team on Monday morning, and expects to be in the lineup against the Washington Capitals tomorrow night.
Walker had been skating on his own for over a week, but with the Canes in a crowded stretch of games on the schedule, the team hadn’t had a regular practice since he resumed skating on January 21.
“You need to get out for 45-50 minutes with a high heart rate and get some bump and some real pace to your game,” said Coach Paul Maurice. “You can skate on your own and skate forever, but it’s just like coming in after summer hockey – you’ve got to come into training camp before you can get in, and then you’re still sore.”
Coming back into the lineup at this time of year will be a tough test for Walker, as the gritty winger will be thrust into an intense atmosphere against a physical team right off the hop.
“It’s too important to come out and then try to get your legs and the speed of the game, but in some ways it could be better,” he said. “There’s that excitement in the room and there’s so many other things going on that I could feed off the guys, the adrenaline of the game and the whole atmosphere of what we’re trying to do.
“Washington is a strong physical team, and I’m excited for the challenge. You only know if you do it, and I’m excited for tomorrow.”
The departure of Jussi Jokinen back to Finland to deal with the death of his father left the team with heavy hearts before today’s practice.
First, we’re all thinking of him and his family in such a difficult time,” said Maurice. “It’s very difficult, especially with travel when you’ve got to sit on a plane for that long and realize what you’ve just suffered through.
“In terms of what it’ll do to our lineup, we’ll get through here and see how Scotty Walker does, and that will give us enough bodies if we need to. We’ll consider another center iceman though, just to give us better balance and be able to use four lines.”
Walker skated on a centerless fourth line today at practice with Ryan Bayda and Tim Conboy. If the Hurricanes do recall a center from Albany, likely Dwight Helminen, one forward on that line will probably exit the lineup against the Capitals.