Canes' Faulk plays; Murphy recovers

Young defensemen going in different directions

calexander@newsobserver.comNovember 23, 2011 

Rookie defenseman Justin Faulk will be in the Carolina Hurricanes' lineup tonight against the Montreal Canadiens, again teaming with Jay Harrison, again looking to play big minutes.

Ryan Murphy, who was in Raleigh on Tuesday for a medical evaluation, will be back in Kitchener, Ontario. He hopes to be back on the ice and play again soon after suffering a concussion Nov. 4 in an Ontario Hockey League game.

Faulk and Murphy were in the Canes' preseason training camp together, both hoping to win a roster spot. They played in exhibition games and sat next to each other in the locker room, two teenagers with a common purpose: Playing in the NHL this season.

Faulk, 19, played the first three games with the Hurricanes, was assigned to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League and now is back up. Given his solid play the past three games - he had 24 minutes of ice time Monday in a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers - Faulk may be around for a while.

"I feel a lot more comfortable out there than I did the first three games of the year," Faulk said this week. "I just go out, play my game and go from there."

Murphy, 18, was Carolina's first-round draft pick this year. Sent back to the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL for another year of major junior hockey, Murphy has been sidelined since being slammed into by Niagara IceDogs forward Tom Kuhnhackl behind the Kitchener net.

"I don't remember much about it, although I have seen the replays," Murphy said Tuesday. "There was a delayed penalty. I was going to the puck in the trapezoid, I missed the puck, looked for it with my head down and he got me pretty good."

Kuhnhackl, who hit Murphy in the head with an elbow, was given a 20-game suspension by the OHL.

Evaluation of Murphy

Murphy said he is skating again and "about ready for some games." But he said the Hurricanes requested he come to Raleigh for a full medical evaluation before he's cleared for contact and a return to games.

"With concussions there's a protocol to follow so that I don't go back too early," Murphy said. "This is done to prevent future concussions."

Murphy said he has had other concussions playing hockey. He did not give a number but insisted they were not a major concern.

"Definitely not," he said. "The past concussions were very minor and it was more precautionary. I'm not worried."

Peter Friesen, the Canes' head athletic trainer, said Murphy was evaluated by Mike Peters, the team's eye doctor; team physician Josh Bloom, who specializes in sports-related concussions; Raleigh neurologist Robert Volstad, a vestibular therapist; and Robert Conder of Raleigh Neuropsychological Services. Murphy also did some neck and vision exercises with Friesen and assistant trainer Doug Bennett.

Friesen said Murphy would be fitted for a new helmet, possibly a Cascade M11, designed to lesson the impact of blows to the head.

"We need to be proactive to minimize these things," Friesen said. "The league is doing a good job in trying to eliminate bad hits but we need to do all we can."

No timetable

Friesen said he gave Murphy a pair of Nike strobe goggles that some of the Canes players experimented with during training camp. In theory, they help with reaction time and peripheral vision.

"Defensemen often have their backs turned behind the net and can take some big hits," Friesen said. "These exercises could help Ryan's peripheral vision and help him be more cognizant of everything around him."

Friesen said the extensive evaluation Tuesday would help determine when Murphy can return to playing.

"It's tough to say right now when I can play," Murphy said. "I want to get back as soon as possible but not at risk."

Murphy, small at 5-foot-11 and 176 pounds but a puck-moving defenseman with a lot of offensive flair, is hoping to compete for Canada in the 2012 World Junior Championships after being left off the team last year. The event is set for Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Calgary and Edmonton, Alb.

It appeared Faulk, a native of South St. Paul, Minn., might again be in the lineup for Team USA for the World Junior. But he may have other, more important games to play at that time - with the Canes.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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