The bad news: Joni Pitkanen's knee will require surgery and the Canes will lose him for three to four weeks.
And so it goes in Raleigh, where injuries have become the norm once the air chills and the leaves begin to turn color, be it at Carter-Finley Stadium or the RBC Center. Sutter is out indefinitely and joins forwards Scott Walker and Justin Williams in the trainers' room. Tuomo Ruutu missed three games before returning from a hip/groin injury Saturday. Pitkanen's loss — he has a torn meniscus and Dr. Marty Isbell will be performing the procedure this week, according to a Hurricanes release — will further thin the depth on the blueline, which is already missing a rejuventated Frank Kaberle. In the absence of Pitkanen, both Josef Melichar and Anton Babchuk should be dressed for the Canes' next game Tuesday at Montreal — the fifth of six straight road games.
Dwight Helminen will be recalled to fill Sutter's spot, according to a couple different sources. There has been no release from the team concerning any plans to recall anyone from Albany, but Helminen — a former University of Michigan product who was lost in the shuffle with the Rangers for a few seasons before playing in Finland last year — would be the logical choice since he's a natural center and a proven AHL scorer. I wouldn't count out Nicolas Blanchard — a defensive specialist in Albany who provides a little size at 6-3, although only 188 pounds — getting a chance if Sutter's out for an extended period and Helminen fails to impress.
It's hard to remember this much upheaval with the Canes only seven games into a season, but tuck this away and chew on it until Tuesday: Carolina's atop the Southeast (nine points, tied with Washington, but with a game in hand) and five of the team's games have been on the road. A split or better in the final two games of the road trip — Montreal on Tuesday, St. Louis on Thursday — has to be considered a huge success.