ST. PAUL, Minn. -- While Canes captain Eric Staal will play in his 700th NHL game Thursday against the Minnesota Wild, defenseman Tim Gleason will have to wait at least one more game before playing his 600th.
Canes coach Kirk Muller said Thursday that Gleason would not be activated off injured reserve and play his first game of the season. Gleason suffered a concussion in a Sept. 21 preseason game but has been skating and practicing with the team.
Muller had Brett Bellemore paired with Ron Hainsey on defense as Gleason and Mike Komisasrek will be held out against the Wild.
Muller also said rookie forward Elias Lindholm would sit out at least another game. Lindholm has missed the past four games with a shoulder injury, but Muller had said this week it was possible he could be in the lineup for the Wild. He said Lindholm was “possible” for Friday’s game at Colorado.
“We tried a couple of different things in practice (this week) but Minnesota is playing really well and is a high-tempo team,” Muller said after the morning skate. “We picked five of the last six points and (Bellemore) has been good. I thought I’d stay with him right now. Those two (Gleason and Komisarek) are veteran guys and ready to go. We’ve got back-to-back games and we’ll see how things go after tonight.”
Cam Ward will be in net for the Canes on Thursday but Muller did not commit to Ward playing back-to-back, saying the goaltending would be assessed after the Wild game.
“He’s capable of doing it,” Muller said. “We’ll see what his workload is tonight.”
Staal caught some “he’s-just-old” chirps from teammates in the locker room when he was asked about playing No. 700.
“It goes quick. It doesn’t take long,” Staal said, smiling.
“It’s something I’m proud of, for sure. The more games you have, the longer you can be in this league, you need to be proud of it. It’s a great league, great players, and something I’m hopeful of continuing on and hopefully having many more ahead.
“It’s something as you go through it, you enjoy that moment and then at the end of the day it’s just another game and you play it like you normally would and hope to have many more after it.”
Staal said he still remembers suiting up for game No. 1, on the road against the Florida Panthers. It was Oct. 9, 2003, and he was 20 days shy of his 19th birthday.
“I was both nervous and excited,” he said. “It’s every kid’s dream to play in the National Hockey League when you grow up a fan. For me to have that opportunity when I did was pretty awesome.”
While the Wild game marks Staal’s 700th regular-season game, there’s another total he hopes to increase -- his 43 playoff games. He has not been able to add to that since 2009.
“No question,” Staal said. “I’ve been saying that for a while, the last couple of years. I feel like we’re a team that will go about our business this year and continue to grow and get better. I like where we’re headed. It’s still early but the direction we’re going is the right direction.”
Staal’s parents, Henry and Linda, will be on hand for No. 700. So, of course, will Jordan Staal. He’s playing No. 489, meaning he’s closing in on a milestone game of his own.