Andrej Nestrasil no longer has the only gap-toothed smile on the Canes.
Victor Rask has been missing one of his front teeth since Saturday. The rookie center took an inadvertent stick in the mouth at the morning skate, lost the tooth and needed four or five stitches for the cut. He also played a few hours later against the Detroit Red Wings, putting in 16 minutes and hardly avoiding contact -- he blocked three shots.
For Rask, it was the 80th game in what has been an impressive first NHL season at age 22. And the Swede could have played all 82 had Canes coach Bill Peters not sat him down for a couple of games in mid-February as a healthy scratch, saying Rask needed a mental break from the grind.
"It was great experience this year," Rask said Monday. "It has been a fun year for me. It hasn't been the best for the team but it's been fun to be up here. It's always been my dream to play here."
The plan of Canes management was to have Rask spend a full year in the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers. Those plans changed quickly when center Jordan Staal suffered a broken leg in the Sept. 23 preseason game in Buffalo. Just like that, Rask was needed -- now, not later -- and had an NHL roster spot.
"I wasn't expecting too much and just wanted to come into camp and show them what I could show them," Rask said. "In some preseason games I thought I played well. Then the season came and I stayed up all year.
"After about game 50, (Peters) said I was mentally tired. Maybe it was good to sit out two games and watch from the stands. I thought I played good after I came back from those two games. It's good to stay consistent every game."
Rask, a second-round draft pick by the Canes in 2011, quickly impressed with his hockey IQ, defensive awareness and ability to use his 6-2, 200-pound frame to hang on to the puck. He finished with 11 goals and 22 assists, joining winger Chris Terry (11 goals) in becoming the first to score 10 or more goals for the Canes in their rookie seasons since Jeff Skinner had 31 in 2010-2011.
Rask said he will soon join the Swedish national team that's preparing for the World Championships in the Czech Republic. He said would play in some of the preliminary games in Russia in what he called a team tryout.
As for his offseason conditioning, Rask said he would continue to work on improving his first and second strides, saying he will incorporate "explosive" elements such as jumps and power skating.
"It's hard but I've been working the last three or four years on it and want to take another step," he said. "It's good."