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Gameday: Trio of Players Returns for Canes

Monday, 01.13.2014 / 12:16 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Trio of Players Returns for Canes
A trio of previously injured players will return to the lineup tonight for the Carolina Hurricanes, who host the Calgary Flames to begin a three-game homestand.

Michael Smith
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Eric Staal, Jiri Tlusty and Riley Nash will draw into the lineup. Nash has missed five games with a lower-body injury, and Staal missed three games also with a lower-body injury.

“It’s a big lift,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “Getting three healthy bodies back is good.”

Tlusty was on the shelf for the longest period of time, as he had an emergency appendectomy on Christmas Eve and has missed eight games since.

For Tlusty, the injury – if you can even call it that, considering it wasn’t exactly hockey-related – was a mixed bag. On the one hand, it couldn’t have happened at a worse time. On Dec. 21 in Tampa Bay, Tlusty netted two goals, just his fifth and sixth goals of the season, in what has been a disappointing one stat-wise compared to his career year in 2012-13.

It was also Christmas, a time you’d rather not spend in the hospital having emergency surgery.

“It was Christmastime, which was bad,” Tlusty said. “But I’m glad we caught it at the right time, and it didn’t rupture.”

On the other hand, the appendectomy couldn’t have happened at a better time. The fact that it happened at Christmastime was a negative, but it was also a positive in that the team had three off days, lessening the practice time and games Tlusty would miss.

Because it was the holiday season, he also had his family in town.

“My family was here, so it was nice to have them around,” he said. “A surgery like this, you want someone around you. They helped me out a lot. I’m grateful they were here to spend the time with me.”

Post-surgery recovery was slow at first, Tlusty said, but he is returning to game action right before the three-week mark.

“It’s been rough. The first couple of weeks were kind of slow. I wasn’t able to do much,” Tlusty said. “As hockey players, we always try to push as hard as we can, and they didn’t want me to really push the first two weeks. That’s hard. I’ve been through a couple injuries, and you always try to push through the pain and get back as soon as possible.”

Tonight against Calgary, Tlusty will skate on the left wing with Radek Dvorak opposite and Riley Nash in the middle.

“I’m excited for tonight, and I’m excited to be joining the team.”

Also returning to the lineup will be the Canes’ captain after missing his first games due to injury since Feb. 26, 2011.

“When he’s playing at the top of his game, he’s what every team wants – a big power forward down the middle,” Muller said. “When he’s using that big body, he can take a lot of ice time, he’s strong on the puck, he creates offense and he’s a big leader of this hockey club.”

Staal will assume his first-line center position with Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin on either side of him.

Anton Khudobin is expected to make his sixth consecutive start in net. Though Friday night’s 3-0 loss in Columbus was the first blemish on his statistics this season, he’s still 6-1-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.

Tonight’s game will mark the second and final meeting between the Canes and Flames this season, the first time they’ve faced each other multiple times in a season since 1999-2000. Carolina earned a point in the team's first meeting this season on Dec. 12, a 2-1 overtime loss. After tonight, the Hurricanes won’t play again until Saturday, the beginning of a back-to-back set at home to close out this three-game homestand.

“We’re playing good hockey, we’ve got lots of energy, we’ve got healthy guys back tonight and we’re at home,” Muller said. “We’ll empty the tank tonight because we don’t play for a while. I expect our guys to come out ready to play.”



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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 52 39 9 4 171 117 82
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 NYI 52 28 18 6 145 129 62
5 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 BOS 53 28 19 6 153 146 62
8 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 52 23 20 9 122 137 55
14 BUF 54 21 27 6 124 146 48
15 CBJ 55 21 28 6 137 170 48
16 TOR 52 19 24 9 120 144 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 54 15 19 -13 34
J. Skinner 54 19 12 -3 31
V. Rask 52 12 19 0 31
J. Staal 54 12 19 8 31
K. Versteeg 53 10 21 1 31
E. Staal 54 9 21 0 30
E. Lindholm 54 8 16 -9 24
A. Nestrasil 47 7 12 0 19
J. Nordstrom 43 5 9 2 14
R. Hainsey 54 3 11 -11 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 15 11 6 .908 2.38
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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