RALEIGH — Erik Cole was back on the ice Wednesday and skating with the Carolina Hurricanes, but the forward isn't sure when he'll be back in the lineup.
Cole, who suffered a leg fracture Oct. 3, participated in the team's morning skate at the RBC Center before the game with the St. Louis Blues. He wore a yellow jersey, denoting his noncontact status, but he was skating and cutting and helping out on defense.
"It was just a pregame skate, so we knew it wouldn't be anything too strenuous," Cole said. "I was on the ice beforehand, so it was to see if I could do some regular drills, the skating drills."
Cole was injured in the Canes' second game of the season, against the Boston Bruins. With less than three minutes remaining, he collided with the Bruins' Dennis Wideman near the boards, with Wideman's right leg banging into Cole's left leg.
Replays made it appear as if Cole fully hyperextended the knee, and he said Wednesday that he first feared the worst -- a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
"I thought for sure it would be an ACL injury," he said. "The pain was on the outside of my knee, where the fracture is. I was sure that's what it was."
The initial prognosis was that Cole would be out four to six weeks, and the Hurricanes placed him on the injured reserve list Saturday. It was hoped he might return near the four-week mark, but Cole isn't sure.
"It depends," he said. "Right now it feels pretty swollen. You can't sit there and say 'I feel good' or 'I feel close' when you haven't pushed it as far as you need to."
Canes coach Paul Maurice said he thought Cole skated hard and well Wednesday and gave his teammates a lift by being on the ice with them.
"We know the importance to the team," Maurice said. "It's not even in the score-sheet. It's the speed, the open ice for other players. It changes, visually, how our team looks. Because even on the nights when you're grinding and things aren't easy, his speed shows. ...
"And there's his personality. He fits here. He's part of our group, and when he's back on the ice with this group ... it changes the mood."