Carolina looks to rebound after 3-2
loss to Sabres’
N.C. (AP) -- It was a regular practice on an off day
during the playoffs, and not a very strenuous one at that.
Still, the ice time was pretty special to Erik Cole.
He joined the Carolina Hurricanes' full-squad workout on
Sunday for the first time in 2 1/2 months, when a
compression fracture in a vertebra in his neck ended what
already was a career regular season.
Will he be back in the postseason? Cole won't be sure
until he has a CT scan in the upcoming week to check his
"I am hopeful that the next CT scan looks good and that
both fractures are fully healed or close to being fully
healed," he said Sunday. "If they are, we'll sit down with
the doctors and talk about what the options are, what the
repercussions are, sit down with my wife and figure it
The Hurricanes certainly could use their left wing, and
not only because they lost Game 1 of the Eastern
Conference final to Buffalo on Saturday. With him in the
lineup and contributing 60 points in 60 games, they were
After he got injured March 4 in Pittsburgh, Carolina
finished 10-8-4 in the final 22 games.
"I think shortly after that we became a little bit more
inconsistent with our play," coach Peter Laviolette said.
"I am not sure if that was due to complacency on some
nights or the fact that one of our top players is now
missing from the lineup."
The devastating injury came when Cole was driven headfirst
into the boards by Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik. A few weeks
later, Orpik tried to reach Cole through Mark Recchi, a
former teammate with the Penguins who was traded to
It came at a particularly bad time for Cole. He recently
had traded in a simple neck collar for a large, cumbersome
brace in hopes of avoiding surgery, and he really wasn't
in the mood for an apology.
"After the week that I had, and after the three weeks I
had, for Reccs to come up to me and he just asked if he
could pass along my number to Brooks and I told him no,"
Cole said. "I told him not to bother."
On Sunday, Cole was welcomed back to practice with open
arms, even if he might not be able to rejoin the team
until next season. He donned a blue sweater to signify his
status as an injured skater, and as he warmed up, several
teammates took time to tap the ice with their sticks, the
hockey equivalent of a standing ovation.
At the end of the 60-minute session, alternate captain
Kevyn Adams gave up his normal spot in the center of the
faceoff circle during stretching, motioning at Cole to
"Just a good lift for the guys to see him able
to go out and really enjoy being out there with the guys,"
Adams said. "It's good to have him back."
Yet the Hurricanes have more pressing matters, namely
finding a way to end Buffalo's five-game road winning streak
in the playoffs. The Sabres held on for a 3-2 victory in the
opener mostly on the strength of goals from defensemen
Henrik Tallinder and Jay McKee.
Those blue-line players have combined for four goals in the
postseason after totaling only 11 during the season, and
they did it with fellow defenseman Teppo Numminen out for
the final two periods.
There was some question about Numminen's exact injury, with
coach Lindy Ruff first calling it a "lower-body" ailment
before adding "mid to lower." Either way, his status for
Game 2 on Monday night was questionable.
Doug Janik, who didn't play at all this season for Buffalo,
would be the replacement. He had five goals and 19 assists
in 71 games with Rochester in the AHL.
"We certainly hope Teppo is going to be OK, but if not, all
season long, we've had guys step up and take over when we've
had injuries," McKee said. "We've got guys that are here and
ready to take the place of Teppo if he's not in."
Ruff isn't too worried about being short-handed.
"I think our top four relish that extra ice time," he said.
"Defensemen, if you are playing a decent game and there's a
lot of offensive zone time, you can easily play four
defensemen and roll them and they enjoy playing that ice."
Cole would like to get back, too. For now, he can
participate in non-contact drills and other activity. Simply
having him back around was enough to bring a smile to
everyone's face, including his.
"It's better for him than it is us," Carolina captain Rod
Brind'Amour said. "Until we see his name in the lineup, and
then it'll be all about us. Right now, it's all about him,
and it's good to see for his morale. Now, he knows the tough
road is behind him."
Buffalo Sabres' Daniel Briere, left,
celebrates his goal with teammates Jason Pominville (29) and
Taylor Pyatt in the first period against the Carolina
Hurricanes during the opening game of the NHL hockey Eastern
Conference finals Saturday, May 20, 2006, in Raleigh, N.C.
Buffalo won 3-2. Carolina Hurricanes' Bret Hedican (6)
watches from the background.
Photo/ Karl DeBlaker)