There’s one easy way to get a Carolina Hurricanes fan to roll their eyes and groan, and that is to begin your sentence with “Did you hear who got injured?”
The Hurricanes spent a lot of last year bit by the injury bug. Goaltender Cam Ward spent the vast majority of the season injured. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen is still out with a broken heel he sustained last season. With preseason injuries already happening, this afternoon’s news brought no joy to Carolina.
According to early reports today, young star Jeff Skinner will be out for at least tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a lower body injury and is listed as doubtful for Friday’s preseason finale against the rival Buffalo Sabres.
This news, combined with the injuries to Tuomo Ruutu, Tim Gleason and Alex Semin, could sour the sweet tea of many Hurricanes fans. The last thing the team needs is to face more injuries to key players. However, it’s nowhere close to as bad as it sounds.
According to statements from Hurricanes coach, Kirk Muller, Skinner being out of the lineup is mostly a precautionary measure. “We just want to be smart and not push him right now with these exhibition games.” Muller said
Coaches will usually make statements leaning to the side of caution. It’s rare to hear a coach tell the media something is “precautionary”, or as Muller said, wanting to “be smart” if it’s not so. More times than not they’d rather say they have no idea than to give false hopes. This should allow the team and fans to breathe a little easier.
The other good news here is that Muller will be allowed more latitude with his lineup card, allowing some rookies to get a second look on the ice. After six players were sent down to Charlotte earlier in the week, having the openings in the roster will bode well for players on the bubble like LW Chris Terry.
Terry had a brief stint with the Hurricanes last season, but he is still trying to earn this year’s roster spot. With the injuries piling up it creates openings like this. With Semin out and now Skinner no longer an option, this puts Terry on the first line alongside Jiri Tlusty and captain Eric Staal. That opening allows Jeremy Welsh to spend extra time on the fourth line, giving coaches another glance at him.
Rookies like Terry and Welsh won’t save the team. GM Jim Rutherford tried to heal the team with call-ups out of Charlotte all last season, but that didn’t work. However, the more ice time Muller can give guys like Terry and Welsh, the better insured the team will be against injuries down the stretch.
Skinner isn’t going to be down for long. With the temporary spots his and the other injuries provide, they could end up being a good thing in the long run. Nobody stays healthy all season, and nobody can blame a coach for being cautious in the preseason.
Don’t expect Skinner’s injury to last past the preseason. He’s come back sooner from worse.