RALEIGH, N.C. – It was the start to the season that neither defenseman James Wisniewski, nor the Carolina Hurricanes had planned on.
Acquired by the Hurricanes on June 27 from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Anton Khudobin, Wisniewski was expected to help bolster Carolina’s defensive and offensive capabilities after totaling eight goals and 26 assists (34 points) in 69 games with Columbus and Anaheim in 2014-15.
Unfortunately, that outlook changed quickly.
Following the Hurricanes’ season-opening 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday, the veteran defenseman was scheduled to undergo an MRI at 1 p.m. on Friday to determine the extent of a knee injury he suffered just 47 seconds into his first regular-season shift with the team.
It was a timeline that began at 3:16 into the first period of play at Bridgestone Arena when Wisniewski played for a puck against the Predators’ Victor Arvidsson along the boards.
An awkward misstep out of the scramble, and down went the Carolina defenseman writhing in pain.
Helped off the ice by teammates John-Michael Liles and Elias Lindholm, Wisniewski never returned to the game.
Fast forward to Friday morning’s post-practice scrum, Bill Peters wasn’t sure of the prognosis, and waited like everyone else to find out.
“We’re gonna know here shortly, so no sense speculating,” Peters said.
“We’ll know hopefully within an hour or two what the situation is.”
At that time, Peters indicated that in the short term, former Charlotte Checkers captain Michal Jordan, already on the team’s NHL roster, had earned a spot in the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Nashville.
“Now Michal Jordan’s in the lineup,” Peters said.
“Should be in the lineup for the foreseeable future.”
Just before 4 p.m., the team then announced Wisniewski’s prognosis – he would undergo surgery on his left knee after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and that his recovery time was estimated at six months.
Approximately 90 minutes later, the Hurricanes recalled Checkers defenseman Danny Biega, providing him the opportunity to be up with the big club this early in the season.
Not only did Jordan earn a chance to start in the lineup as the Hurricanes take to the ice in Carolina’s home-opener against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, but now Biega would be up to don an NHL jersey when the team stepped onto the ice.
The 24-year old Harvard grad, who played 10 games for the Hurricanes in 2014-15, totaling two assists, now has the chance to make a further impression to show that he’s the right choice to help fill the void.
Particularly since he’s a right-handed shot, the same as Wisniewski, he will hopefully try to fill that void as it currently exists.
Though not making the roster out of training camp, part of the first group of 16 to head to open Checkers training camp, the Hurricanes’ third-round pick (67th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft has the potential to defend and provide some offensive upside.
He’s totaled 32 points (5g, 27a) in 135 career AHL games with the Checkers, and posted 85 points (28g, 57a) in 132 games in college while earning All-American honors with the Crimson.
He is a confident player and indicated his intentions before training camp started.
“There’s definitely spots open,” he said.
“My goal is nothing short of making it.”
Though his chance to start in the NHL ended two weeks ago, that same opportunity has come knocking again and quickly so.
Expect to see him make nothing short of a valiant effort of taking full advantage of it.