RALEIGH Manny Malhotra has played many an NHL game in his career but likely never one like the one Friday.
Malhotra will be the fourth-line center as the Canes take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena. He's with a new team, getting a new start.
And perhaps, getting a chance he once thought he may never receive.
"I always believed," Malhotra said after the morning skate. "I believed in myself and my family believed in me. I knew that I still had something to contribute to a team."
But there were serious questions about his vision. He suffered the horrendous injury in March 2011 -- a deflected puck flying into his left eye -- while playing for the Vancouver Canucks and some believed by last season that it was too dangerous for him to be on the ice.
After nine games last season for the Canucks, Malhotra was shut down. Some said his career likely was over.
"In free agency nothing came up," he said. "It was a long summer from that standpoint. As the season began things began to get a little bit dimmer. But I believed there was an opportunity for me somewhere."
Malhotra, 33, signed a professional tryout contract with the Charlotte Checkers in early October. He played eight games in the AHL and said he has no problems with his vision on the ice.
"I keep saying it's not was it was it never will be," he said. "It's fine. I'm accustomed to what I do have."
Malhotra said he has consulted with Dr. Stanley Chang, a renowned ophthalmologist at Columbia University, and said Chang said "there's no reason I shouldn't be playing."
Malhotra, who signed a one-year contract Thursday with the Hurricanes, will be on a line with Brett Sutter and Drayson Bowman against the Lightning. Always one of the NHL's best face-off men, he'll likely be used on key draws in the game and on the penalty kill.
"You can never have enough experience," Muller said. "Just being a mentor to the young guys in our lineup. … Manny has been involved with some good teams. His experience I believe will be huge on and off the ice with our group."
Malhotra and Muller once were teammates and linemates with the Dallas Stars at the end of Muller's playing career in the early 2000s. Malhotra played center and Muller moved to left wing, jokingly noting Malhotra took his job.
"He was awesome, always in a good mood," Malhotra said of Muller. "He was always a very intelligent player. He was an example of what a great teammate should be."
Years later, Malhotra hopes to be that example for the Canes.