Much has been made of Jordan Staal returning to the Canes lineup Monday night, and the media was waiting en masse for him after the morning skate at PNC Arena.
Staal was activated off injured reserve Monday -- the final official step -- and will make his season debut against the Montreal Canadiens.
Jiri Tlusty hasn't missed as many games as Staal, but the winger also will be back to face the Canadiens. Tlusty leads the Canes in goals (10) and power-play goals (5).
"You don't ever want to be sidelined and I'm excited to be back," said Tlusty, who missed the past seven games with an upper-body injury. “I think Jordan is more excited than I am and it's going to be fun. We just have to go out there and do what we do best.
"It's not easy coming back from injuries but we just have to do our best. That's all there is."
Staal has not played since suffering a broken fibula in the Sept. 23 preseason game against Buffalo. He said a key in his first game will be "calming the nerves down" and just playing hockey.
"No matter now many games you've played there are going to be some nerves," Staal said. "It's a fast league and I'm jumping back in."
Tlusty last played Dec. 11 at Tampa Bay. He will be used on Victor Rask's line with winger Chris Terry, although Canes coach Bill Peters has said Tlusty should be in the top six when back at game speed.
The Canes have struggled mightily to score goals and can use both Staal and Tlusty. Forwards Alex Semin and Andrej Netrasil continue to be sidelined.
Tlusty said the Canes need to crowd Habs goalie Carey Price in the crease and make it tougher for him to see the puck.
"We need to get second opportunities and third opportunities and we'll have a bigger chance to score," Tlusty said. "Just get pucks to the net and have guys around the net."
The Canes (10-21-4) are coming off a 2-1 road loss to Tampa Bay. They've been limited to one or no goals in nine December games, topping the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in a shootout last week.
"We need to get more guys in front of the net," Tlusty said. "The games are tight and the goals are scored around the net."
Jay McClement was at the morning skate after missing Sunday practice. He will center the fourth line with Brad Malone and Pat Dwyer, with Zach Boychuk the healthy extra.
Defenseman John-Michael Liles missed the skate and Peters said he has flu-like symptoms.