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Cole in for Game 2?

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com
PITTSBURGH -- Carolina Hurricanes forward Erik Cole skated with the team Thursday morning for the first time since being sidelined with a lower-body injury late in the third period of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Cole exhibited plenty of jump and quickness during his 20-minute workout, which included breakouts and tip drills with his teammates. After a five-minute stretch on the bench, Cole showed no ill effects of the knee-on-knee collision with Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke that sidelined him for the final eight minutes of the series opener Monday. Tuomo Ruutu, who also suffered a lower-body injury midway through the first period of Game 1, missed practice for the second straight day.

"Erik looked like his does in most of our morning skates and we'll see how he feels when he comes to the rink (Thursday) night," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "Tuomo wasn't as noticeable at the morning skate, but both players remain a game-time decision."

On Wednesday, Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford told NHL.com Ruutu "definitely" would be scratched. 

"Cole's probably a little better than Ruutu, but whatever the case may be, we do have some time left before Game 2, so we'll have to see," Rutherford said at the time.

In the final eight minutes of their Game 1 loss Monday, Maurice had Eric Staal centering Scott Walker and Ray Whitney, Matt Cullen flanked by Chad LaRose and Sergei Samsonov and Rod Brind'Amour with Patrick Eaves and Jussi Jokinen. The one likely switch to open Game 2 would have Samsonov replacing Eaves on the Brind'Amour line. If Cole returns to the lineup, he likely would join Cullen's line.

Whatever the case may be, the situation will come to light following the pre-game warm-ups prior to Game 2 at Mellon Arena.

"I saw that Erik (Cole) skated this morning and he looked pretty good to me," Staal said. "We'll see how he's feeling and it'll be up to him and the training staff on whether or not he plays. (Ruutu and Cole) are two physical players, two key players to our team, but we've got guys who can step up and play those key roles if needed and eat up the minutes that they log so we'll be ready to go."

"We've been pretty lucky where we haven't gotten too many injuries, but you know it's going to happen sometime," added Jokinen. "But then it's on someone else to step up and take those minutes and contribute to the team."
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