When the Checkers returned to practice on Tuesday following their weekend sweep of Peoria, they did so with one notable absence.
Center Brett Sutter, recalled by the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday to fill in for the injured Zac Dalpe, is expected to make his season debut for the Canes as they visit Boston on Tuesday. That leaves the Checkers without a full-time captain – a situation that will continue for the time being.
Coach Jeff Daniels said that he would likely name a third alternate captain before the team’s next game on Friday, joining current alternates Nicolas Blanchard and Chris Durno. He did not yet know who that player would be, or whether the new designation would stick from game to game.
“It might even end up being a rotation,” he said.
With Dalpe’s lower-body injury officially called “week-to-week,” it seems safe to assume that Sutter will not play in the team’s upcoming three-games-in-three-days set against Houston (Friday and Saturday) and Norfolk (Sunday). If he does well on the Hurricanes’ fourth line – his ideal fit there is why he got the call ahead of others – he could stay up longer than that, which could force a change of plans.
“If I get the word from Carolina that we’re not going to have him for a while, then we’d have to look at naming another full-time captain,” said Daniels.
In Sutter’s absence, Daniels moved Durno back to center, where he played in the preseason while fellow middle-man Riley Nash was still with the Hurricanes. Rounding out that line, which also includes Jerome Samson, Matt Pistilli earned a promotion from the fourth unit, while Jared Staal seems set to make his season debut in his place.
Daniels said that Pistilli, who scored the seventh-round shootout winner in the team’s home opener on Saturday and recorded an assist on Jon Matsumoto’s game winner the following night, had earned the right to play in more of a scoring role.
“This is a guy that’s had an interesting first two years pro,” said Daniels. “He didn’t play much in the first and spent a lot of time in Florida last season, but now he’s here and he’s feeling really confident about what he can do. He’s got an opportunity, and now it’s up to him to take advantage of it.”
While Pistilli was just as upset about his minus-2 rating as he was pleased about his shootout winner from the first match-up with Peoria, Daniels chalked the stat up to circumstance rather than individually poor play by Pistilli.
“Sometimes you can just get a bad bounce and have a puck go in off somebody’s leg or something like that,” said Daniels. “Unless it’s really glaring, we won’t hold that against anyone.”
Regarding Sutter’s recall, Daniels said that the Hurricanes believed the fifth-year pro would be a better fit on their fourth line than someone like Samson, Drayson Bowman or Zach Boychuk, who have all had good starts to the season. That being said, he added that players of that ilk that have made a more obvious statistical contribution should not be discouraged on being passed over.
“I try to be clear about that on day one that this is how it works,” he said. “The guys know they have to play hard at all ends of the ice and that the points alone aren’t going to be enough, because if they can’t play in their own end, Mo (Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice) isn’t going to have a lot of trust in them. For the most part our scorers have done that, but that’s just not what Carolina needed this time.”