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After a successful NHL debut on Wednesday night, Casey Borer already seemed quite comfortable being the new guy in a dressing room full of unfamiliar faces.
In the next couple of days, he could be forgiven for thinking he never left Albany.In probably the busiest transaction day in the Hurricanes’ 10-year history, three of Borer’s River Rats teammates will be joining him with the big club in time to suit up for Friday night’s rematch against Atlanta, with three players going on injured reserve and one on waivers.
Keith Aucoin, Brandon Nolan and goaltender Michael Leighton are coming up from the AHL after Andrew Ladd underwent surgery to repair the broken bone around his eye and Scott Walker strained his knee during Wednesday’s game. According to coach Peter Laviolette, Ladd has only a slim chance to play Friday night, while Walker is one of the three going on injured reserve.
Goaltender John Grahame was placed on waivers to make room for Leighton, a change based on performance rather than health. The 26-year-old Leighton has shined in the AHL this season with a 2.14 goals-against average, .928 save percentage and a league-leading five shutouts, while Grahame was pulled from his last start after allowing three second period goals to the New York Islanders in a span of 3:39 on New Year’s Eve.
While Cullen and Tanabe’s injuries were sustained in previous games and were well-documented, Walker was hurt in the second period of Wednesday’s game. He managed to play through the pain until it was over, narrowly missing on a breakaway that would have won the game in overtime.
Unfortunately, he bruises don’t quite end there. Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg also appears to be struggling with something after missing practice on Tuesday and Thursday and clearly not looking like himself in Wednesday’s loss.
If the Hurricanes are to snap out of their current three-game winless streak, they’ll need the same type of contributions from their recent call-ups that they got from Borer on Wednesday night. The 22-year-old defenseman logged 17:02 of ice time and was rewarded for his strong play with two shifts in overtime.
”I was impressed,” said fellow defenseman Mike Commodore. “He got the puck and he moved it quickly. I know I wasn’t playing in overtime in my first game.”
“He played really well, especially for his first game,” said Laviolette. “He didn’t appear nervous, he snapped the puck around, he made good decisions and he was very effective.”
The Hurricanes coach said that what has impressed him the most about the first-year pro is his ability to keep things simple, something that the defenseman admits must be a focus of his moving forward.
”Before the game I talked to coach and he said that my first option would probably be the best option,” said Borer. “That’s what I tried to base my game off of last night. If I saw an open forward, and obviously there’s some great forwards that we have here, so I’m just going to give them the puck and let them do their thing.”
With Wade Brookbank also on the roster, as many as five players who started in Albany this season will be on the ice against the Thrashers on Friday and possibly beyond until the team starts to get healthier.
Brookbank, Aucoin and Leighton are more experienced, having played 71, 21 and 47 NHL games, respectively, while Nolan and Borer each made their big-league debuts this season. Nolan, who trails only the prolific Aucoin in scoring for Albany with 26 points in 31 games, earned an assist in two games with Carolina in late December.