As the Carolina Hurricanes stretched on the PNC Arena ice after Tuesday’s practice, coach Bill Peters circled the group, tapping each player with his stick.
“Good job, Staalsy,” Peters said. “Good job, Gleas. Good job, Lindy.”
So it went after the Canes put in their first practice without Jordan Staal and now Jeff Skinner, who is out indefinitely with a concussion. Peters, at least outwardly, is trying to remain upbeat despite the prospect of going into the regular season missing two of his best players.
“It’s disappointing, obviously, to a certain degree, but you’ve got to continue on,” Peters said.
For the Canes, that means putting together new forward lines and power-play units. Peters said Skinner, who had a team-high 33 goals last season, would miss some games to begin the season but had no other update on his status.
Skinner was playing left wing on a line with center Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm. With Skinner out, Nathan Gerbe moves into his spot.
“It’s just how the game is,” Gerbe said. “You know every team through the year misses a lot of key players and guys have to fill in and do what they can.
“As a group, collectively, we have to step up. We know that. We have to be solid every night and the focus in this room is that every guy play their game and whatever role they’re in and be ready to go.”
Rask, 21, came to training camp with the goal of making the roster. He’ll go on the ice Friday in his NHL debut against the New York Islanders as the Canes’ second-line center.
“When key guys get hurt someone has to step up, and I think I’m pretty well-prepared,” Rask said. “I had six exhibition games and thought I played well. Now I just have to keep on moving forward.”
The Canes had 11 forwards available for practice as Patrick Dwyer recovers from a lower-body injury. Defenseman Ryan Murphy jumped in Monday as a replacement, playing on Riley Nash’s line with Chris Terry.
The top line remains Eric Staal with wingers Jiri Tlusty and Alex Semin. Jay McClement centered Brad Malone and Patrick Brown, another rookie who was recalled Monday from the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League.
A year ago Tuesday, Brown said he was going to classes at Boston College, ticking off his course load from last fall.
“Econometrics, behavioral economics, I was a (teaching assistant) in a class called ‘Courage to Know,’ capital markets and another fun elective,” he said, smiling.
Brown signed a two-year, entry-level contract with Carolina in April after the Eagles’ season. He came to the Canes’ prospects conditioning camp, played in the Traverse City (Mich.) rookie tournament, came to training camp, was sent down to Charlotte on Saturday and now is back and preparing for his first NHL game.
“I was probably dreaming about that in class last year more than I was focusing on class,” he said of how things unfolded.
Peters said he hoped Dwyer would be able to go in the opener. Forward Zach Boychuk cleared waivers Tuesday and was assigned to the Checkers.
If Dwyer can’t play, the Canes could dress seven defensemen and 11 forwards for the Islanders game at PNC Arena. Or use Murphy at forward.
As for the starting goaltender, Peters said a decision still was to be made between Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin. The Canes will face the Isles again Saturday in Uniondale, N.Y.
“We’re going to have to be real responsible defensively and make sure we’re the hardest-working team each and every night in order to give ourselves a realistic chance,” Peters said. “I think we’re capable of that. We’ll find a way.”
Jordan Staal will be out three to four months with a broken leg. No one can say when Skinner will return. He took an elbow to the head Sunday from Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen in the Canes’ final exhibition.
Lindholm, who rooms with Skinner, said Skinner was “doing all right.”
“It’s tough,” Lindholm said. “It’s tough for the team, too. Hopefully, it’s not for long.”