The Carolina Hurricanes have been through this song and dance before. They’ve seen strong starts wiped away by injuries, and they’ve seen rebound runs at the postseason cut short by the same. Now, it appears several key players may not be healthy to begin the year.
With opening night just over a week away, several players have not been practicing lately, and coach Kirk Muller has expressed doubt about their availability in game one.
And these are not fringe forwards or depth defensemen either–they’re key cogs in a team that doesn’t have many to spare. Tim Gleason, Tuomo Ruutu, Alex Semin and Elias Lindholm all figure to play big roles in the coming year. Semin was part of one of the best lines in the NHL a season ago while Gleason skated more minutes shorthanded than anyone not named Justin Faulk.
Though inexperienced, Lindholm’s injury could leave the biggest hole. General manager Jim Rutherford seemingly put all his eggs in one basket when he made no other moves to bring another center to Carolina.
“The opportunity is there for him to start with the Hurricanes,” he said, just days after signing Lindholm in mid-July . “I will be shocked if he doesn’t based on all of the reports we have and what I’ve seen.”
But now, it appears that Lindholm may have trouble sticking around.
Canes' Muller on Lindholm today: "With the amount of time (he's) missed, we have to evaluate whether he can jump in at this level."
— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) September 25, 2013
The names don’t stop there, unfortunately. The latest to join the walking wounded is Jeff Skinner, who is now slated to miss the team’s final two preseason games. Like the others, he is listed as “day-to-day” but the days have been piling up. If they are not healthy to begin the year, a slow start seems almost inevitable.
Twenty-eight players remain in training camp, and with five on the shelf, all figure to have as good of a shot as ever at impressing Muller.
And if not, there’s always the waiver wire. While on the surface, the last thing that the Hurricanes might need are more unestablished players, every year serviceable talent can be found. At this stage, some clubs run into a number’s game, especially with the cap coming down. Not everyone can fit, and teams like Carolina can benefit.
Of course, there’s no replacing a Skinner or a Semin in the lineup. These are merely stopgap measures to control the bleeding before a tough opening month spirals the season out of control. The ‘Canes need to get healthy, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later. In the tough Metropolitan division, a slow start could spell disaster.
Photo credit: Andy Martin Jr.