Canes’ players and staff need to collectively turn and cough for this mid way check-up. The first three months have not been pleasant for Carolina, both physically and mentally. The southeast division team is currently 12-20-6. Let’s start with the physical exam:
- Jeff Skinner is on the injured reserve list. Skinner has been out since December 8, 2011 with a concussion. The open ice hit that jarred the Canes’ star was delivered by a virus known as Andy Sutton. Drayson Bowman was recalled December 11th to fill Skinner’s skates. Bowman has two goals in nine goals with a plus/minus -2.
- Brian Boucher is also a member of the IR. His injury occurred during a practice on December 5th. His absence has created a couple interesting side effects. Mike Murphy was the original call up and relieved Cam Ward for his NHL debut on December 6th with less than ten minutes remaining in the game. In a bizarre empty net circumstance, Murphy would allow no goals yet be charged with the loss. Murphy would also finish in the crease for the following game in Edmonton. Again, he allowed no shots on net. Justin Peters cleared waivers to replace Murphy as the more seasoned backup goalie when it was clear Boucher was not returning anytime soon. He made his 2011-12 NHL debut Tuesday night and made an astonishing 48 stops. Canes fell to the Pens 4-2 in Pittsburgh.
- Jay Harrison was out with a concussion and missed ten games beginning in late November. Prior to his injury, Harrison was collaborating well with the young, talented defenseman, Justin Faulk. Thankfully, Faulk did not have to pair up with Tomas Kaberle for long, who was clearly suffering from mono, rather Jaroslav Spacek was brought onto the team in a trade. Spacek provided a veteran mentor for Faulk. Faulk and Harrison have reunited since Harrison’s return on December 18th.
- Patrick Dwyer is the latest of the concussed players. The injury occurred in Monday’s contest against New Jersey. Zac Dalpe was recalled and competed in Pittsburgh Tuesday. He made one shot and was plus/minus -2.
- Joni Pitkanen has not seen the ice since December 6th. Diagnosis: Concussion. Some may argue concussions have become a plague on the NHL. However, others could argue the awareness has increased since Crosby’s infamous injury. Regardless of the reason, it is clear players need more protection.
- Tim Brent had a brief injury inflicted during a practice and Riley Nash was given his NHL debut. He played in two games and registered an assist from Andres Nodl on December 23rd.
Physical deficits can certainly impact a team’s mental health. The storm only intensifies with dismal statistics, an MIA captain, a rare struggling Ward, and a coaching change. It really isn’t a surprise Canes sit ten points from a playoff spot. Despite the aliments, there are bright spots shining through the fog in Raleigh.
- Cam Ward began the season in rare form. The 27-year-old Conn Smythe Trophy winner has been a wall stacked upon Carolina’s crease in the past. He kept the 2010-11 playoff hopes alive and ended the season 37-26-10 with a .923 SV% and 2.56 GAA. To date, Ward is 12-14-5 with an .898 SV% and 3.19 GAA. Although the netminder is known to be left flying solo by an absent defense at times, Canes expect more from their starting tendy. For example, Ward allowed three goals on 28 attempts against New Jersey on November 8th. It’s a hard pill to swallow from the goalie that once stopped 57 pucks in a 2008 game against the Islanders. No worries Caniacs, there is a ‘however’ here. However, Wardo seems to be recovering from whatever mental bug had him down. He has won three of the past five contests and making more of those trademark Cam saves. We know that he is a fierce competitor and will do everything possible to be back on his game. He even snagged a goal in Monday’s game. It must be a good sign, right?
- Fans are not sure they can say the same for their captain, Eric Staal. Between his lackluster statistics and rumors of his lack of leadership in the locker room, there is reason to be concerned. He has 7 goals and 13 helpers in 38 games. His plus/minus rating of -22 is downright depressing. He has not had a point in the past six games. The bright spot…he did claim ten points over eight games between November 27th and December 13th.
IfWhen he gets back on that track, I look forward to writing an article titled, “How Staalsy Got His Groove Back.”
- Tuomu Ruutu had a slow start, but has become the Canes’ goal scoring leader with 14 ginos. He boasts a total of 22 points in 38 contests. The Finn is currently on a six game point streak with 7 points.
- Jussi Jokinen is another Finn producing for Carolina. He had a brief injury, but in 35 games Juice has claimed 22 points.
- The fourth line has shined with Nodl’s two goals, as well as Anthony Stewart and Tim Brent scoring once each in past four games.
- New head coach, Kirk Muller, should be a healthy dose of Prozac for the team. Practices under Muller are clearly more lively and physical. He needs his team to play a full sixty minutes, and is working hard to prepare his team for the challenge. Muller has been with the Canes for 30 thirty days and is 4-7-2.
- Brandon Sutter and Tim Gleason have supplied cheers for the Caniacs this year. Sutter continues to grow into his game. These alternate captains are fulfilling their roles overall this season.
So, how to the Carolina Hurricanes check out after 38 games? The prognosis is mediocre. Although not life-threatening, Canes have a tough road to recovery. Next season will not be any easier with the altered NHL alignment. The prescription is simple…more cowbell. Kidding! Caniacs only wish it was that simple.
Canes face Toronto at home Thursday.
Topics: Andreas Nodl, Anthony Stewart, Brandon Sutter, Brian Boucher, Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes, Drayson Bowman, Eric Staal, Jay Harrison, Jeff Skiinner, Joni Pitkanen, Jussi Jokinen, Justin Faulk, Justin Peters, Kirk Muller, Mike Murphy, Riley Nash, Tim Brent, Tim Gleason, Tuomu Ruutu