It was a scary scene Monday when Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack collapsed to the ice after a collision with Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.
Athanasiou hit Lack in the head with his right side as he drove the net and scored the overtime winner for the Red Wings at PNC Arena. Lack was down on the ice, surrounded by trainers and medical personnel, for more than 10 minutes before being stretchered off and taken to UNC Rex Hospital.
The Hurricanes said in a tweet Tuesday that Lack underwent scans at Rex and the injury was diagnosed as a neck strain. Lack was released from the hospital Monday night, and Canes coach Bill Peters said before Tuesday’s game against the Wings that he was optimistic Lack might return before the season ends.
“He came in this morning and felt good,” Peters said. “He’s stiff and sore, as you can imagine and he’s going to get more treatment (Tuesday) evening when he comes back. But I think we dodged a bullet there.”
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Lack, 29, suffered two concussions this season that have kept him out of a total of 26 games. He was playing his best hockey of the season, winning his past four starts before Monday’s game.
The Red Wings, who won 4-3 in the game rescheduled from Dec. 19, stayed on the ice after the overtime winner, joining the Hurricanes players staff and players. All the players tapped their sticks on the ice, hockey’s form of a salute and show of support, when Lack was taken off the ice. Lack also flashed a thumbs-up.
Lack tweeted Tuesday that he would continue with tests and rehab to “get back as soon as possible.” He also thanked those who stayed on the ice after the game.
The Hurricanes on Tuesday recalled goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic from the Florida Everblades of the ECHL on an emergency basis. Nedeljkovic, 21, made his NHL debut in relief on Jan. 17 at Columbus, and made 17 saves on 17 shots faced in Carolina’s 4-1 loss.
Nedeljkovic has appeared in 25 games this season for the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League, posting an 8-14-1 record, a 3.40 goals-against average and an .881 save percentage. In 10 games with the Everblades, Nedeljkovic has gone 4-4-0, with a 3.64 goals-against average and an .885 save percentage.
Athanasiou scored at 1:59 of overtime after Canes defenseman Justin Faulk tied the score 3-3 in the final minute of regulation with his second goal of the game. After a Canes shot in overtime, Athanasiou broke down the right wing and drove the net while being pushed from behind by Canes forward Victor Rask into Lack.
“I had no idea I hit him,” Athanasiou said. “I tried driving the net and I felt (Rask’s) stick on my back. He cross-checked me pretty hard. Even after, I had no idea I came in contact with (Lack), but I must have run into him.
“I never like to see someone go down like that and on a stretcher. I hope he’s OK and he gets back.”
The game was the makeup of the Dec. 19 game postponed when a refrigerant leak caused poor ice conditions at PNC Arena. The Canes and Red Wings played again Tuesday to complete the unusual back-to-back — in the Wings’ case, a third game in three days after their Sunday afternoon matchup against the Minnesota Wild.
Jeff Skinner scored his 31st goal for the Canes on Monday, running his goal streak to six straight games. Anthony Mantha had a pair of goals for the Wings, both on second-period breakaways, and Tomas Tatar a power-play goal in the third that gave the Wings a 3-2 lead.
Carolina (33-27-14), by earning a point, moved four points behind the Boston Bruins in the chase for the final Eastern Conference wild-card playoff spot. The Red Wings, a fixture in the Stanley Cup playoffs the past 25 years, are on the brink of elimination.
“It’s hard to think about the game,” Canes center Jordan Staal said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Eddie. He’s had a tough time with injuries and all the stuff that has gone on for him. To see him play as well as he has of late and given us a chance to make a push here, it’s been a lot of fun. Hopefully he recovers from this quick.”