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Hamilton ready to play for Hurricanes when Qualifying Round begins

Defenseman fractured left fibula in January; Reimer, Vatanen also healthy

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Hamilton wins it in overtime

PHI@CAR: Hamilton goes five-hole for OT winner

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Dougie Hamilton will be ready to play for the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Qualifying Round whenever it begins, general manager Don Waddell said Wednesday.

Hamilton, a defenseman, fractured his left fibula against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 16 and was expected to miss the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they had started on time in April. After the NHL paused the season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, Hamilton was permitted to continue his rehab in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is now healthy.

The NHL announced its Return To Play Plan on Tuesday.

"Hamilton's been here, and he's been skating," Waddell said. "He's allowed to skate because he's a rehab player, so we feel like we'll be in good shape that way."

Hamilton, who turns 27 on June 17, would provide a boost for the Hurricanes in their best-of-5 Qualifying Round series against the New York Rangers. He was fourth among NHL defensemen with 40 points (14 goals, 26 assists) in 47 regular-season games and was among the leading contenders for the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman in the NHL before he was injured.

"Dougie was playing the best I've seen him since he's been in Carolina before he went down," Hurricanes center Jordan Staal said. "It was unfortunate. I know he wanted it the other way. But it's going be a big, towering defenseman who knows how to score goals and can run our power play. I just actually had him over the other night, so he's excited to get going and be a part of the group again."

Video: Dougie Hamilton undergoes surgery on his broken leg

Waddell said goalie James Reimer and defenseman Sami Vatanen are also healthy. Vatanen, who had a lower-body injury when the Hurricanes acquired him from the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 24, has yet to play for Carolina. Reimer sustained a lower-body injury against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 22.

Defenseman Brett Pesce, who is recovering from surgery on his right shoulder, is the lone injured Hurricanes player who might not be healed by the time the NHL returns. But Waddell said Pesce could be ready to play by mid-August.

"He's going to see a surgeon in 10 days," Waddell said. "He had the surgery on March 5, and they said it was 5-6 months, so if you take the calendar, it will be some time probably in the middle of August. So I'm not sure he's going to be ready when the season begins or not and the timing of when the season begins, but he'll be really close."

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