The thing with Riley Nash, one of the latest names to be thrown around in the injury conversation, is that his absence was barely noticed. Six goals, 10 overall points, a respectably low amount of penalty minutes — Nash is no slouch and it’s no slight on him to say the team didn’t notice his absence, it’s that Carolina has gotten so used to shuffling the world after someone gets injured.
Where does this leave Nash? He comes up in the clutch, makes plays when needed, and is handy to have on a line. Yet with big game coming from the lower lines, Jiri Tlusty returning from his appendectomy, and Elias Lindholm back from the World Juniors Championships, Nash’s seat has not been taken. He’s centering the fourth line with Drayson Bowman and Tuomo Ruutu.
This isn’t like assembling a table from Ikea though. Nash fits in many places, but not one specific line. Should he perform well on the fourth line, there’s nothing wrong with bumping him up. Conceivably, Nash and Lindholm could become interchangeable as output fluctuates.
Reports say Eric Staal has returned from his own injury and is up front with the offense machine of Jeff Skinner. This can set the Hurricanes up not only from a manpower perspective, but the confidence booster of being close to full power.
The Calgary Flames come to Raleigh on Monday, giving Carolina a chance to take their new health out for a spin. Having Nash, Staal and Tlusty fresh and ready to get out and play some hockey, there’s no reason not to expect a huge night.
If Nash’s absence wasn’t noticed, his presence will be.