Following a disappointing effort in an inter-conference Sunday matinee, the Carolina Hurricanes regrouped on Monday with new lines.
The line shuffle wasn’t too drastic, and head coach Kirk Muller said that was by design. He wanted to keep pairs of forwards together that have worked well with one another; Eric Staal remained with Alexander Semin, Jordan Staal stayed with Nathan Gerbe and Riley Nash and Jeff Skinner weren’t split.
The line changes may or may not stick for Tuesday night’s match-up with Chicago, but it was at least a varied look for a day.
“Just seeing a different look here today and experimenting in practice,” Muller said. “We’ll make decisions tomorrow, but we’re just seeing if it makes sense to make a couple of little changes without doing a major overhaul.”
In his first game back from a lower-body injury suffered during the preseason, Ruutu logged 10:28 of ice time, two shots and a hit against Phoenix.
“I got him as much ice time as I thought would be good in the first game to get his feet wet again. He was working hard,” Muller said. “He brings energy and plays a straight-line game. If we opt to put him up there with Alex and Eric, it will be good timing because it will make that line go a little bit more direct.”
Ruutu said he gradually felt more comfortable as Sunday’s game progressed.
“In the first period, I felt like guys were going right and left. That’s how it is. You forget how quick of a game it is. I was only out for three weeks and it felt like guys were going right and left and left and right,” he said. “In the second period I felt better, and in the third period I felt fine.”
Working on a line with Staal and Semin in practice, Ruutu said it’s easy to work off a pair that has established chemistry; they know where one another is going to be, and Ruutu can use his instincts to play off of that.
In injury news, Elias Lindholm skated in a no-contact sweater on Monday, and he remains day-to-day with an upper-body concern.
“He said he’s feeling pretty good, and we’ll see where he is tomorrow,” Muller said. “Roddy is going to push him again today.”
Early indications are that Khudobin’s injury might not be as serious as it originally appeared.
“Hopefully he’s back sooner than later,” Muller said.
Luckily for the Hurricanes, the schedule density lightens up a bit in the latter half of October. After playing six games in 10 days to start the season, the Canes will play six over the next 17 days. Following Saturday’s game, Carolina will play just three times in 12 days.
In any case, Ward, who had the day off on Monday, will have a chance to settle into a rhythm.
“It’s an opportunity for Cam to pick up some more games,” Muller said. “That’s why you can’t look ahead because we were just playing it back and forth with them because they were playing so well. Now Cam has an opportunity to have a few games, and it gives Khudobin a chance to heal up to 100 percent.”
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