RALEIGH — It appears injured Carolina Hurricanes forward Jussi Jokinen will be able to return a lot sooner than expected.
As Canes coach Paul Maurice said Thursday, "We dodged a bullet."
Jokinen, the Hurricanes' second-leading scorer, was injured in Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at the RBC Center. Early in the third period, Jokinen fell backward over the Lightning's Ryan Shannon, twisting his left leg under Shannon's body.
General manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday morning Jokinen would be sidelined for three to four weeks. But Maurice said the team received the results of two MRI exams Wednesday night revealing the injury was not as severe as first feared.
Jokinen had little swelling Thursday, and Maurice said he may be able to begin doing some light skating today. Rutherford said Jokinen might be able to play next week.
"It was really good news," Maurice said Thursday. "We caught a break there because when you look at it on video, boy, it looks like it's a season-ender.
"He wasn't just dealing with one thing. He was sore in a couple of spots. Either one of them, if it was very significant, could have been long-term.
Jokinen has been centering a line with wingers Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu. Skinner scored twice against the Lightning, the second goal coming off a well-executed give-and-go with Jokinen. Jokinen is also is a playmaker on the power play and has won 51 percent of his faceoffs.
In Thursday's practice, Maurice moved Ruutu to center and had Anthony Stewart at right wing. Stewart, an offseason free-agent acquisition, had been playing on the fourth line centered by Tim Brent and has logged more than 10 minutes in ice time just once this season.
Stewart, the Canes' biggest forward at 6-3 and 230 pounds, has scored two goals - both in wins over the Boston Bruins - and has a plus-one rating.
The Hurricanes on Thursday recalled forward Drayson Bowman from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL. Bowman and Zach Boychuk will be the wingers on Brent's line for tonight's game against the Washington Capitals.
"I thought we were going pretty well and performed pretty well the last couple of games," Stewart said of the Brent line. "It's good to have that recognized and move up and show a little more of what I can do."
Maurice said Stewart should bring "some energy and use his size on that line ... He's got some hands, he's scored some goals against tough opposition, and we hope he can bring that."
Maurice said Jiri Tlusty would take Jokinen's spot on the second power-play unit. Tlusty has been on Eric Staal's line opposite Chad LaRose and has a goal and two assists the past three games.
The Hurricanes (5-4-3) have won their past two home games. Cam Ward was in goal for both games, stopping 58 of 60 shots, and will start tonight against the Caps.