Elias Lindholm is back from the 2014 World Junior Championship in Sweden and eager to get back to playing for the Canes.
But Canes coach Kirk Muller said it may or may not be as soon as Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After the gold-medal game, in which Finland topped Sweden 3-2 in overtime, Lindholm began the trek back to Raleigh. The Swedish forward, Carolina’s first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, said it took 19 hours of travel time.
"It's tough when you go through that many time zones, and flying back and trying to get your legs again," Muller said. "It's not easy to play in a professional sporting event … flying back and forth. We've got to know that he's ready to go mentally and physically, but we've also got a couple of guys and we'll see if they're ready to go."
Muller said forwards Jiri Tlusty and Riley Nash might be available for the Leafs game after being sidelined. Tlusty underwent an emergency appendectomy just before Christmas and Nash has been out three games with a lower-body injury.
Lindholm, 19, said he returned to Raleigh on Tuesday but admitted to being a little fatigued after Wednesday's afternoon practice at PNC Arena, noting, "I hope I feel better tomorrow."
With Lindholm recalled, the Canes on Wednesday reassigned forward Aaron Palushaj to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL. Palushaj played one game for the Canes.
Lindholm had two goals and seven assists in the six games in the World Junior in Malmo, Sweden. Only forward Filip Forsberg, who was named the tournament MVP, had more points for Sweden.
"I played all right,"Lindholm said. "Obviously you want to help the team win the gold but I felt I played all right."
As for the tournament, Lindholm said, "It was good, it was fun. Obviously we wanted to win the gold. I thought we had a real good team and we were playing at home in Sweden with the crowd cheering for us. It's just one game for the gold and Finland won.
"Last year we lost in the final but we felt the U.S. was a strong team. But this year we felt we were one of the stronger teams in the tournament, so it was more disappointing this year."
Lindholm last played for the Canes Dec. 12 against Calgary. He said he was able to keep up with the Canes online and texted frequently with Jeff Skinner and others as the Canes put together a winning streak.
"They've won four in a row and we need to keep it going," he said. "Obviously it's fun to come back and it's a good mood here, and that's good."