RALEIGH — In a span of less than eight minutes Monday, it looked like the Carolina Hurricanes had lost two of their top defenders.
But during the 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals at the RBC Center, Tim Gleason quickly returned to the ice, and though Joe Corvo could be lost for as many as three months, the cut he suffered could have been much worse.
Corvo was cut on his lower right leg by the skate of Washington defenseman Karl Alzner when the two collided along the boards less than a minute after giving the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead on a power play goal.
Corvo was taken to Rex Hospital with the game still in progress, and he underwent surgery.
Hurricanes head athletic trainer Peter Friesen said Corvo's Achilles tendon was cut, but most of the damage was done to the muscle attached to the tendon.
Friesen said the cut came very close to the neurovascular bundle, a bunch of nerves and arteries. Had those been severed it would have been much worse, he said.
"You can lose function of your foot," Friesen said. "Then you definitely don't play high-level sports again."
General manager Jim Rutherford said he would seek the advice of Jeff Daniels, the coach of the Hurricanes' AHL team, the Albany (N.Y.) River Rats, before recalling a defenseman for Saturday's home game against the Vancouver Canucks. A decision will be made by Friday.
On Monday, the Hurricanes shipped defenseman Bryan Rodney back to Albany and on Tuesday they did the same with forward Patrick Dwyer.
Corvo's injury was the second serious cut a Carolina player has suffered in less than a month. Goalie Cam Ward was cut on the leg on Nov. 7. Ward had hoped to be ready by Saturday but Friesen said that timeline is a bit too optimistic.
Carolina has a long list of injuries to key players this season, aside from Ward and Corvo, including star center Eric Staal, forward Erik Cole and defenseman Joni Pitkanen. "It's beyond frustrating," Gleason said. "I don't think many players on this team have ever gone through something like this. ... Losing Joe is obviously a big loss defensively and especially offensively because he puts points on the board and he's good on the power play."
Gleason, who was taken out below the knees in a controversial play by Washington star forward Alex Ovechkin, returned to the game before an ensuing five-minute major penalty expired. The play earned Ovechkin his second game misconduct in three games and on Tuesday, the league suspended him for two games.
"It was just a charley horse, and I got lucky," Gleason said. "I watched the hit 15 times last night. I guess the more you watch it, the worse it gets. ... It's tough to say anything. It's more of a reaction than saying he stuck his knee out on purpose. I'm sure he didn't do that [on purpose]."
Rutherford refused to blame all of the team's struggles on the injuries. The Hurricanes (5-16-5) have now lost five straight and went 3-10-2 in November.
"It's one of those really strange things," Rutherford said. "We did not play well in the early going [of the season]. ... We've created our own problems. ... This is just one of those things teams go through periodically. And unfortunately coming off the heels where everything went right for us in the second half of last season, everything's gone wrong for us in the first half of this season."
Rutherford said he has been trying for a month to make a trade, and he will continue to pursue one, but it's not an easy thing to pull off right now.
"They're hard to make," he said. "In the last month I've been on the phone more than I've ever been in any year I've done this job."
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