RALEIGH, N.C. – According to an update given by Carolina Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford on Tuesday, defenseman Joni Pitkanen has not fully recovered from a heel injury he suffered near the end of last season.
Suffering the injury during a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals back on Apr. 2, Pitkanen apparently has not skated throughout the summer and the team is still unsure of his status in participating in training camp which opens on Sept. 11.
“The main thing is that we want to have a healthy team going into training camp,” Rutherford said.
“The only setback is Joni Pitkanen. He’s going to get a CT scan and we’ll get some kind of projection as to how long he’ll take to get back.”
One name that Rutherford mentioned who should seriously contend for a regular spot along the blue line, particularly in light of Pitkanen’s playing status, was Ryan Murphy, the team’s top draft pick in 2011.
“Murphy, our first round pick from a few years ago, is of age now and should contend for a position,” Rutherford said.
“We added Komisarek, a big strong guy, and Adrej Sekera from Buffalo, a good defensive defenseman. I feel that our defense is more balanced. It’s gonna’ be harder to play against.”
Up front, the Hurricanes’ recent top pick, Elias Lindholm, is still nursing a shoulder injury he suffered at the team’s prospect camp that took place in July.
Rutherford indicated that he’ll be with the Carolina team that will play at the upcoming NHL Prospects Tournament taking place in Traverse City, Mich. beginning on Thursday, but his ice time will likely be limited.
At this point, the Hurricanes want to ensure that Lindholm is healthy and ready to skate at training camp.
With the exception of Pitkanen and Lindholm, the Hurricanes are on an upswing regarding positive news relating to injury rehabilitation as recent status reports on goaltender Cam Ward and captain Eric Staal have been positive, and so has that of forward Tuomo Ruutu.
Ruutu has been back in Raleigh skating regularly over the past week or so, and has felt good while strengthening and rehabbing from a second hip surgery that he had near the end of last season.
“For the first couple of months there wasn’t much that I could do,” Ruutu said after skating at RCI last Friday.
“I was on crutches for a little over a month. It’s been a battle, but being out there (on the ice), I’m just trying to enjoy it ‘cause I’ve had some tough times in the last year. Once you get out there, you forget all the rehab and all those long hours doing the thousands of reps.”
With all that Pitkanen is currently going through with his injury, he can take a specific point of encouragement and mindset that fellow countryman Ruutu used in order to get himself back onto the ice in early July.
“I’ve learned something from the past,” Ruutu said.
“You need all the support. You don’t do all the rehab by yourself, but with the supervision of your doctors, coaches and trainers, while your family and friends keep you upbeat.”
As the Hurricanes will no doubt give Pitkanen as much support as he needs to return to the ice as soon as possible, according to Rutherford, the team is poised to open training camp with head coach Kirk Muller having a number of able-bodied individuals available to fill the roster in preparation for the upcoming season.
“We certainly have a lot more pieces and will be a stronger team at our training camp,” Rutherford said.
“We’re all excited about it.”