If medically cleared, Sebastian Aho should back in the Carolina Hurricanes lineup Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators.
The forward took a big hit from Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames in the Jan. 14 game at PNC Arena, suffering a concussion while also taking a knee-to-knee hit from Giordano. Aho, who was leading the Canes in goals and points, was favoring his left leg as he was helped off the ice.
But surgery was not required for the knee. Aho, 20, also had extra time to recover with the Canes going through their five-day NHL bye week, then the NHL All-Star Game break this past weekend, and missed just four games.
Aho was on the ice Monday as the Canes gathered for their first post-break practice. He wasn’t wearing a yellow, no-contact jersey, another indication he’s ready to return.
Asked later how he handled practice, Aho said, “Good. I’m doing better each and every day. It was fun being on the ice with the guys and I felt good, so I’m happy.”
Aho indicated the concussion was the first he has sustained playing hockey.
Aho was attempting to get off a shot against the Flames when he was hit by Giordano. Giordano hit Aho in the head with his shoulder while also making contact with Aho’s knee. Giordano was given a match penalty but was not further disciplined by the league.
What does Aho remember about the play, which left him down and dazed?
“I remember all of it,” he said. “It was a hard hit.”
Aho was with the Canes on a two-game road trip last week, getting in some skating and stickhandling. Canes coach Bill Peters expected him at practice Monday but was doubtful at first about Aho playing against the Senators.
“He started the morning in a yellow (jersey) and ended it in a color,” Peters said. “That’s positive. If he gets clearance he’ll play.”
Aho has a team-best 16 goals, scoring five in the five games before the injury against the Flames, and has 37 points, As forward Elias Lindholm said, “He’s been our best player this season.”
The Canes’ game against Ottawa is the first of an eight-game homestead, their longest of the season. After the All-Star break they were four points out of a wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“Every game is important right now,” Aho said. “We want to get those points, those wins.”
Senators at Hurricanes
When: 7 p.m., Tuesday
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh