We've been debating for weeks the merits of the various options Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford will have when the injured forwards were ready to return to action. Last night, Jussi Jokinen came back after a six-game absence and made his presence known in a big way. Confident and reliable fourth line center Ryan Carter is apparently next in the pipeline; we may see him as soon as Thursday night in Buffalo. And finally, Jiri Tlusty has been skating with the team and can't be long in returning to active duty. While these regulars have been absent, both Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe have been lighting the lamp and turning heads as their level of play suggests they are ready to play in the NHL. So now what?
Carter Could be Latest to Return - Paul Branecky, Tracking the Storm Blog As well as Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe have played, their current stint with the Hurricanes could be coming to an end as veterans continue to heal.
"Now we've got some decisions to make because we've had some young players play well and we're going to have some guys coming back who were playing well on their way out," Canes coach Paul Maurice said today. "We'll have some tough calls."
Questions? At this crossroads of roster decisions and the push to climb up the standings, you can address any questions you'd like discussed by the Hurricanes' insiders in this Thursday's podcast. Here is your invitation to fire away: Twitter / Kyle Hanlin: Planning a Hurricanes Report podcast with @PaulBranecky Thur morning. Hit us w/ questions via Twitter!
After the jump, a couple unusual recaps of last nights unusual shoot out win, All-Star player stories on newcomers Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner, and a look at what else is new in the hockey blogosphere.
Recaps of Canes/Flames
David Droschak over at HurricanesBeat.com had this gamer with all those great quotes from the locker room following. Wild Night Skinner's shootout goal finally sinks Calgary.
Maurice's comments on the incident after the game were part tongue-in-cheek, part truth. "We're just going to send him out there by himself now," Maurice said. "He's got enough backbone that he doesn't have to worry about it. Good for him. We expect the officials to call the first five elbows he took to his head; that didn't happen. I love the way that went. Good for him. I just loved his response to that because he's a skilled, brilliant offensive player and he's going to draw more and more of that as it goes," the coach added. "Now you've got a guy who's not going backwards in a game. He's not going to say, 'Well, I'll wait until the next one before I get upset or this isn't going to be my game.' He might just run ya … and then score the shootout winner. This guy is all right."
Check out Canes' All-Stars douse Flames in schizoid shootout win from the Independent Weekly's "indy" recap which is all about smiles and sisu.
All-Star roster reactions
Starting with the three from Raleigh who will be the favorites of the hometown crowd
Canes' Elite are League's Elite - Paul Branecky, Tracking the Storm Blog Two Hurricanes All-Stars were probably expecting the honor. The third could only hope.
Staal, Ward chosen for All-Star game - Canes - NewsObserver.com It seemed to be a foregone conclusion Eric Staal would be selected for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, and the Carolina Hurricanes captain was Tuesday.
WRALSportsFan.com had the extended video with the three All-Stars from Carolina following the announcements. Eric Staal, and Ward and Skinner over at their video board.
The first timers
Without ego, Cam Ward leads playoff push - Cross Checks Blog - ESPN Ask hockey folks to list the top 10 goalies in the NHL this season and you'll hear lots of names, some familiar, some not.
Guy Behind the Guy: All the Right Reasons - Mike Sundheim It’s been another big year for Cam Ward, who is still only 26 years old. This year he became a father. And he wanted to be an All-Star.
The most in-depth profile I've read about our rookie came out yesterday at NHL.com: Jeff Skinner's rapid ascent results in SuperSkills berth This not just a story about a nurturing, Mayberry-like environment for an 18-year-old from the Greater Toronto Area. It's also about a determined and, yes, mature player who made sure he was ready when he got his chance.
The Hockey News: VIDEO: Carolina rookie Jeff Skinner in contention for Calder Trophy THN.com’s Sean Leathong takes a closer look at Carolina’s fantastic freshman, Jeff Skinner.
'Canes Skinner building through experience | Toronto Sun Carolina Hurricanes 18-year-old rookie Jeff Skinner is one of only a handful of players his age occupying an NHL roster spot.
The other 45
About those other 45 players who were on yesterday's ASG invite list, and some thoughts on those who were not
"We were approached by guys who are hurt. We weren't approached by anyone who said, 'I have better things to do,' " Shanahan said. "Most of these guys enjoy it and are looking forward to the draft this year. The game is given over to them and they sense the interest the fans have."
Some chirping between Chicago's Jonathan Toews and fellow All-star Patrick Kane in this post: Blackhawks' Sharp, Kane added to All-Star roster When told Kane said he’d vote for him as captain, Toews said, "he wants to be on my line again, too. He’s talking about winning the car for MVP and only way he’s gong to do that is if he has me on his line. We’ll see."
Marc Staal looks forward to All-Star reunion with brother Eric from NHL.com: Marc Staal can't remember playing with older brother Eric at any level of organized hockey. That could change in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game.With sides potentially being chosen by Eric, does Marc want his brother on his side for the first time? "We talked about that," Marc said. "I don't think I could handle being on his team. He's too mouthy.
The Hurricanes' players making news
If you look at the two conferences, it's obvious that it will take all 82 games to settle the top eight teams in each. In the East, however, first-half separation has left five teams with double digit deficits to overcome just to attain the eighth seed. Of those five, the Carolina Hurricanes (in ninth, three points out) and Buffalo Sabres (10th, eight points back) have legitimate top-eight aspirations.
Kurt Dusterberg had this profile on the Finn with the very hot hand since the New Year: Tuomo Ruutu - HurricanesBeat.com Hard Work in Progress
Canes' call-ups are happy to help - NewsObserver.com How quickly things can change in the NHL, when an organization's depth suddenly can be tested because of injuries and a team can either fill in the gaps and keep moving along or begin to sink.
Mid Season report cards
Given the porous nature of the Canes defense many a night, I almost didn't bother to read this. But, wuddyaknow?, there is Tim Gleason ranking at 16th best statistically in the NHL. The NHL’s top defensive defencemen at midseason - The Globe and Mail A statistical breakdown of which blueliners are keeping the puck out of their net.
Calder Race: Skinner vs. Couture, and can Taylor Hall rally? - Puck Daddy Of course, this debate could be academic for two reasons: First, because Skinner is on pace for 64 points and 28 goals, which doesn't rank with the offensive players post-lockout that have won the Calder but would give him the points lead among rookies.
Calder Trophy tracker: Couture a scoring star - NHL.com - Trophy Tracker On pace to put up 36 goals this season, San Jose forward Logan Couture has the leg up at the season's halfway point for the top rookie honor. Skinner is runner up.
Carolina Faces Tough Decisions - Versus One of the more interesting subplots of every NHL season is tracking how teams on the playoff bubble approach the period from mid-season to the trade deadline.
Injuries and Consequences
So maybe old men shouldn't play hockey? More bad news from Detroit: Detroit's Osgood out for 6-8 weeks with groin injury - Puck Daddy General Manager Ken Holland told the Detroit News that tests on Monday confirmed "a significant tear." Prognosis: 6-8 weeks on the shelf.
NHL decides not to fine or suspend Colton Orr for knee-to-knee hit on Logan Couture | ProHockeyTalk
This won't make Sharks fans happy, but word is that the league won't discipline Leafs enforcer Colton Orr for his knee-to-knee hit on Logan Couture.
Sid not symptom-free yet, no timetable on return - NHL.com Sidney Crosby is still feeling the effects of his concussion and there is still no timetable for his return, said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.
They said it: Current and former NHL players on concussions - From The Rink With concussions and head-hits back in the NHL spotlight, perhaps it's time to see how former NHL players like Keith Primeau and Eric Lindros are dealing with their post-concussion life.
And here's Down Goes Brown with their multiple choice test on the matter: The NHL's standard test for diagnosing concussions
Charlotte Checkers and other prospects
In the System: Checkers Coping with Recalls - Carolina Hurricanes As an American Hockey League team, the Charlotte Checkers know that losing key players is inevitable when the parent club is in need. They also profile OHL standout Justin Shugg.
Meet Checkers captain Bryan Rodney | Checkers Chatter When Checkers Captain Bryan Rodney is asked about a defining moment in his career, he thinks back three years to the day he got some disappointing news. The 23-year-old didn’t know it, but his life was about to take some unexpected turns.
One week he's the ECHL's rookie the month, the next he's in his first professional fight. Take a look at a whole new side of Mike McKenzie: Cincinnati-Florida hockey fight - Brian O'Hanley vs Mike McKenzie 1/8/11
Again, one of favorite columns: Thirty thoughts from Elliotte Friedman: Concussion doctor weighs in on Crosby debate
The Toronto Maple Leafs were in Los Angeles this week and there were more than a few hockey-savvy stories from the Toronto press making comparisons between the two clubs. Here's one we can also learn from: Inconsistency reigns during Kings’ maturation process - The Globe and Mail
And another great one from Down Goes Brown: So you've become a hockey fan: Gary Bettman's post-Winter Classic FAQ It won't surprise fans to learn that Gary Bettman has a plan. While I can't reveal my sources, I've come into possession of a top secret memo that Bettman recently sent to deputy commissioner Bill Daly.
Returning to the headline and the tough choices in the not-too-distant future, check out one Zac Dalpe's goal as he flew down the ice to take the feed from Patrick Dwyer Sunday vs the Atlanta Thrashers in the NHL's "Plays of the Week". Skinner, Troy Bodie and Eric Staal also get their moments. Yes, Troy Bodie.