Canes' Cole out with broken leg

The forward's recovery will take four to six weeks. Tim Conboy will fill in on the ice.

Staff writerOctober 5, 2009 

— The Carolina Hurricanes have lost their first two games and now have lost a key player.

Forward Erik Cole will be sidelined four to six weeks with a broken bone in his lower left leg, general manager Jim Rutherford said Sunday. Cole was injured Saturday in the final minutes of the Canes' 7-2 loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

Cole had to be helped from the ice after a collision with the Bruins' Dennis Wideman along the boards. Wideman's attempted hip check was a hard but clean hit, his right leg smacking into Cole's left leg. It came with Boston leading by five goals.

The Canes face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday at the RBC Center. Rutherford and coach Paul Maurice said Tim Conboy is expected to replace Cole in the lineup. Conboy was a healthy scratch in the first two games.

"If we expect our team to get a little more physical, I'm very comfortable with Timmy coming in the lineup," Maurice said.

Cole was traded by the Hurricanes to the Edmonton Oilers after the 2007-08 season for defenseman Joni Pitkanen. He returned in March in a three-way trade, helping Carolina reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2006, and signed a two-year, $5.8million free-agent contract after the season.

The Canes practiced Sunday at the RBC Center, hoping to find answers for a stumbling start. Carolina was shut out 2-0 Friday in its opener by the Philadelphia Flyers.

"We're certainly not taking it lightly or casually," Maurice said. "We're not happy with the way we played. ...

"But we played two good teams. It was a fairly even first game, and we got our butts kicked [by Boston]."

Maurice liked the fact that the Canes put up a fight against Boston -- with their fists. No one backed down. Defenseman Jay Harrison even picked a fight with Bruins bruiser Milan Lucic, rarely a good idea.

"I like the fact that it wasn't going well [and] we didn't just sit through it," he said. "Some guys got involved. I like that. I like that fight in our team.

"I don't think we saw that in nearly any of the butt-kickings we took last year. We just went away quietly. We don't want to be getting guys suspended, ... but I did like the fight in our team."

Maurice wants more of that pugnaciousness translated into the Canes' play, especially on special teams. Carolina has given up six power-play goals in the first two game -- two by the Flyers, four by Boston -- in 13 penalty-kill situations. Conversely, Carolina is one-for-17 on the power play, with Eric Staal scoring an unassisted goal in the third period Saturday with Boston leading 6-1.

"Our malaise there has everything to do with our fight level," Maurice said. "Our systematics are similar to the penalty kill that was running at 86 percent at the end of last year and was dominant in the playoffs. Some of it's confidence -- we were very tentative with our special teams.

"There's only one way to get better: You've got to grind and fight, and I think we have to get more aggressive in what we're doing. If we're going to be giving up goals during games, we might as well do it while we're working."

Forward Matt Cullen said the players were "a little bit surprised" by the slow start and by their play in the two games. "We're not a good team right now," he said. "It's time for us to wake up. It's never too early for urgency."

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8945

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