While not a foregone conclusion, it was highly likely. Gleason, as well as forward Elias Lindholm, had been skating in practice and given clearance.
Reports by the News And Observer Thursday afternoon confirmed Gleason is listed “Extra” on the lineup against Minnesota, along with Mike Komisarek. Lindholm was absent from the lineup as well.
The knee jerk reaction from fans might be to throw hands in the air out of frustration and ask “why?!” While perhaps a little counter-intuitive, withholding Gleason for one more game is a smart move for head coach Kirk Muller. It obviously helps none for the Minnesota game, but it’s a much welcomed long-term plan that has been embarrassingly scarce in Carolina.
Gleason is a rough and tumble, lunchbox style defenseman. With Carolina and Minnesota sitting somewhat even on the stats sheet, there’s not a ton of urgency in this game. The Hurricanes can go toe to toe with Minnesota without Gleason. It’s Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche where the defensive focus should go.
Colorado is a bang-up team, sitting among the top spots in the NHL. There’s nothing wrong with a coach using his gut to make the tough call on whether or not a player is 100 percent with a challenge like Colorado just 36 hours away. If Muller feels Gleason isn’t ready yet and could use one more rest day and a good night’s sleep, that’s what divides coaches from fans. This is long term planning.
The questionable part is that after the morning skate, there was still no decision on whether or not Cam Ward would go back to back, starting both Thursday and Friday nights. This is something that could go either way. Minnesota has big guns in their top lines, and while it’s possible for interim backup Justin Peters to take it on, it comes down to whether or not Muller feels he’s up to the task. What would be a mistake is to sit Peters against the Wild and then give Ward the night off in Denver. To put Peters up against Colorado is just fool-hearted and borderline sadistic.
The Ward-Peters situation is fluid and could remain a mystery right up until face-off. What is for sure is that Gleason’s skates will stay dry until at least Friday. This remains a great decision by Muller and should pay off in spades down the stretch.