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While the ice at practice finally seemed crowded just a few weeks ago with every member of the team taking part, even if not fully healthy, Thursday’s group was about as small as it’s been all season.
With Chad LaRose, David Tanabe and Justin Williams already out of the lineup, Matt Cullen and Andrew Ladd were both injured in Wednesday night’s 4-2 loss to the Rangers in New York. Out of that group, only LaRose, sporting a yellow non-contact jersey, was on the ice.
Cullen suffered a broken nose and a possible concussion after being hit by the Rangers’ Colton Orr, while the area around Ladd’s eye was injured when Sean Avery punched him while the linesmen attempted to prevent them from fighting.
”It was a dirty play,” said Laviolette of Ladd’s situation. “He was tied up and he couldn’t get his hands, and then he got hit twice in the face.”
Although there was no official word about either player’s status as they were to be evaluated later in the day, Cullen’s injury may not be nearly as bad as it initially appeared.
When asked about who would assume the bulk of Cullen’s duties running the point on Carolina’s struggling power play, coach Peter Laviolette suggested that he’s not sure he’ll have to make that decision at all.
“I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t know that he’s out yet,” said Laviolette, who said he thought the hit was illegal. “It’s talking about what-ifs and maybes and right now I’m hopeful that Matt will be in the lineup. If he’s not, then we’ll go down that road.”
For those that have seen the hit or replays of it, the fact that he hasn’t been ruled out completely should come as good news in itself.
Less is known about Ladd’s injury, which is a tough break for a player who had been starting to come around after battling various health problems all season, most recently a bout with the flu which cut short his conditioning stint in Albany.
“He played a good game the previous game in Tampa,” said Laviolette of Ladd, who had goals in two straight games coming into Thursday’s contest. “That was a good game for Andrew and that was something to build on. We’ll see where he’s at with the injury.”
If none of the injured players are able to come back before Friday night’s home game against the Boston Bruins, the Hurricanes will have to make another call to Albany to bring in additional reinforcements. Brandon Nolan has played well for the Canes since being recalled last week to replace Williams, picking up an assist in his first NHL game.
In the Bruins, the Hurricanes face a team one point behind them in the standings that has been struggling lately, losing five of their last six, including one shootout loss. Their special teams situation is remarkably similar to Carolina’s with power plays ranked ninth and 10th, respectively, and penalty kills ranked 29th and 30th.
Boston is dealing with injury problems of their own, as former Cane Aaron Ward has missed the last two games with a broken foot, Glen Murray has missed time with a hip flexor strain and Patrice Bergeron has been out since October 27 with a broken nose and a concussion. Bergeron only resumed light off-ice workouts last week. Along with New Jersey, Boston is the only Eastern Conference team that the Hurricanes have yet to play this season. After Friday’s game, they will meet again in Boston on January 8th and finish the season series with two games in consecutive weeks in mid-February.
Carolina won last year’s season series 3-0-1, outscoring the Bruins by a combined total of 18-9.