The Canes' game Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers at PNC Arena was to be a memorable game for goaltender Cam Ward, who is playing his 500th career NHL game.
For forward Jiri Tlusty, it will be 396th career game but it also could be his last in a Canes uniform. Tlusty is one of the team's pending unrestricted free agents, and general manager Ron Francis said Monday he might trade the UFAs "sooner rather than later" as the March 2 trade deadline approaches.
Who knows, Tlusty could be in a Canes uniform the rest of the season. But he said he is prepared for anything.
"Obviously I know the deal and know what they expect to do," Tlusty said Tuesday. "I'm trying to block it out of my mind and just play the game I know how to play. You need stay really focused on the game and that's what I'm trying to do.
"It's kind of hard but it is what it is. Other guys go through it in their careers and I'm going through it right now. It's a part of the business and you have to understand as a player what's the management plan. My plan is to go out there and do things right."
Tlusty, 26, was traded to the Canes in December 2009 by the Toronto Maple Leafs and has played 321 games for Carolina, fighting through various injuries. There was speculation he might part ways with the Canes after last season but agreed to a one-year, $2.95 million contract with Carolina in July.
Tlusty has scored 13 goals in 51 games this season, picking up six on the power play to tie Eric Staal for the team lead. But with the Canes out of playoff contention, Tlusty could be a trade target for teams looking to add a solid two-way winger who can help bolster a power play.
"There could be some interest, but I'm trying to really think about it," Tlusty said. "If you think about it, it's going to bother you. You start being nervous and stuff like that and you don't need that in your game."
The Canes' other UFAs include defensemen Andrej Sekera, Tim Gleason and Brett Bellemore, and center Jay McClement and winger Pat Dwyer. Sekera is believed to have drawn the most interest, but it's hard to say how many of the UFAs will be moved.
"We try to make it easier on ourselves and joke around a little," Tlusty said, smiling. "I'll look over and see (McClement) and I'll say, 'Oh, you're still around?'
"I'd like to stay. For six years Carolina gave me the opportunity to play and I like it here. I have a lot of friends outside of hockey. It's been six great years but it's the business."
Canes coach Bill Peters said Tuesday the trade talk has been a distraction for the players and has created tension in the room.
"It's there. I'm not going to lie to you, it's there," Peters said. "I don't try to defuse it. We just go about our business as usual."
But Peters said the constant speculation has led to "some of this mental fatigue and we've let it get to us a little bit."
The Canes looked tired and unfocused Saturday in a 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, Peters said, and was a reason he cancelled practice Monday.
-- The lines Tuesday had Jordan Staal centering Eric Staal and Elias Lindholm; Riley Nash centering Jeff Skinner and Alex Semin; Victor Rask at center with Nathan Gerbe and Tlusty, and McClement with Brad Malone and Dwyer. Andrej Nestrasil and Chris Terry were the extra forwards.
The defensive pairs were Sekera-Justin Faulk, Gleason-Liles and Ron Hainsey-Bellemore. Michal Jordan was the extra D-man.