Now that it's been determined that Erik Cole has been knocked out of action for a few weeks with a broken bone in his leg, some fans will be clamoring for management to bring back one of the promising youngsters the team sent to Albany at the end of training camp to take his place.
Brandon Sutter had the most impressive camp, but there is little doubt that talented wingers Zach Boychuk and Drayson Bowman will eventually make it to the big league. The organization's plan for that trio is for them to get some valuable experience in the minors. Hopefully, they can develop some chemistry while they are at it. While it might be tempting to recall one of them back to Raleigh earlier than expected, I believe that the team should stick to the original plan and leave them alone for now.
Tuesday night's game against Tampa Bay will feature Tim Conboy on the fourth line with Stephane Yelle and Tom Kostopoulos. Scott Walker will move to the Brind'Amour line. The other lines will probably be juggled until coach Maurice finds some chemistry. Walker is perfectly capable of playing top nine minutes and this solution should work out fine as long as the other top nine forwards play to their capabilities. There is no need to panic, yet.
But if the team keeps losing, all bets are off.
On another note, several people left less than flattering comments about Anton Babchuk after it had been announced that he signed in Russia. Forgetting a moment about his 16 goals scored, (which was in the top five for all defensemen in the NHL), Babchuk was 10th on the team with more than 18 minutes of ice time per game and the Canes allowed the fourth fewest goals in the Eastern Conference last season. This year's defense might be hard pressed to match or beat that mark.
While the team undoubtedly misses Joni Pitkanen's presence on the powerplay, the Matt Cullen experiment on the point has not been successful to date. As mentioned here previously, Aaron Ward averaged just 17 seconds per game of powerplay ice time while with Boston last season. Tim Gleason averaged less than that here in Carolina.
Nothing against Gleason, Ward, or Cullen's effort, but it seems logical that they would have difficulty being successful in situations where they have had little recent game experience. The Canes are certainly depending upon them to get up to speed very shortly.
So far this season, the Carolina powerplay is 1-17, (5.6%), with the lone score coming on an unassisted Eric Staal goal after he stole a pass and beat Tim Thomas. While it is still too early to panic, Bryan Rodney might be an option for the point. There was a reason that the team was so high on him last season when he came to town, and it was not because of his shut-down defense. Unlike the young group of forwards I mentioned above, he has more professional experience and his long term development would not be adversely affected with a call-up to Carolina.
Usually a strength of the team, the penalty kill is also struggling along at a 53.8% rate of efficiency, good for 28th in the league. The Canes have plenty to work on, in nearly all facets of the game.