RALEIGH — Having gotten out of snowy Buffalo, where the weather conditions were brutal, the Carolina Hurricanes are back to trying to win hockey games.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in town, ready to play the Canes on Thursday. With the Leafs is defenseman Tim Gleason, who likely will look to lay a few hard checks on some old friends.
The Canes (18-16-9), who have a four-game winning streak, were supposed to play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. The game at the First Niagara Center was postponed because of the dangerous weather in the Buffalo area, and no makeup date has been released.
It continued to snow Wednesday in Buffalo. But the Canes’ Air Canada charter flight got out at 1:45 p.m. and the team practiced at PNC Arena once back in Raleigh.
“We’re just happy we finally got out of there and got back here,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said.
The Hurricanes may be without captain Eric Staal a few more games, Muller said. Staal has missed one game – and would not have played against the Sabres – because of a lower-body injury, but said Tuesday he’s feeling better and hopes to return soon.
“I need to make sure it’s not an issue in the second half of the season,” Staal said of the injury.
With Staal out, Jeff Skinner will again center a line with Tuomo Ruutu and Alexander Semin. Jordan Staal’s line with wingers Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Dwyer remains intact.
Rookie forward Elias Lindholm has returned from the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, where he helped host Sweden win a silver medal. That’s not what the Swedes wanted, but Lindholm should be buoyed by the experience of being in the international event and performing well.
“We wanted to win the gold but it was fun,” said Lindholm, whose journey back to Raleigh took 19 hours.
Muller said a decision would be made after Thursday’s morning skate about Lindholm playing against the Leafs. Forwards Jiri Tlusty (emergency appendectomy) and Riley Nash (lower-body injury) also could be ready to get back in the lineup.
Goalie Cam Ward, who has missed three games with a lower-body injury, could resume skating Thursday, Muller said.
In the past few weeks, the Canes have seen trades and emotional victories and players chosen for the Olympics – or left off Olympic rosters. Canada announced its Olympic team on Tuesday and Eric Staal was not on it, but he said the omission would be neither deflating nor a huge motivating factor once he’s back.
“I’ve always tried to give my best when I play. It’s been that way since I was a little kid,” Staal said. “I guess it’s my competitive instincts, my competitive juices. I’ll compete hard.”
Gleason, who had been with the Canes since the fall of 2006, was sent to the Leafs last week in a trade that brought defenseman John-Michael Liles to the Canes. Add in a rare game postponement in Buffalo and it’s been a bit of whirlwind, but the Canes have been able to string together four straight wins.
“We want to try and stay on this (streak) as long as we can,” Skinner said. “I think we’re pretty comfortable with where we are. We’ve had consistency in our game and it’s starting to pay off for us. We need to keep doing the little things right and build off of it.”
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