Tracking the Storm

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
Eric Staal, Jiri Tlusty and Riley Nash will draw into the lineup for the Hurricanes, who host the Calgary Flames to begin a three-game homestand.
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.”



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72