If you know Justin Faulk, you know the wait is killing him.
Games are flying by. The Canes' regular season is down to the final 13 games. Faulk continues to sit, antsy, sidelined with a sprained knee.
"It's not very fun to sit out," Faulk said today. "Obviously when the team is losing, or when the team is winning, you want to be a part of it. Obviously we're in a bit of a rut right now and I wish I could be out there doing anything I could to help."
So does general manager Jim Rutherford. On Wednesday, he called Faulk the Canes' top defenseman and said the team misses him as much or more as injured goalie Cam Ward.
Faulk was injured March 19 against Florida, after a hit from the Panthers' Jack Skille along the boards. He has missed the past six games but is skating with the team in practice and may be able to return by next week.
Reminded of Rutherford's comments, Faulk said, "I don't know. I think obviously missing Cam (Ward) is not that good, either. He's a great goaltender and has proven himself in this league."
Faulk said the team continued to have trust in goalies Dan Ellis and Justin Peters, believing they can get the job done. The Canes are still in contention in the Southeast Division despite the slide, trailing the Winnipeg Jets by four points.
"We've got three games in hand and we're four points out (of first)," he said. "We have them again on our schedule, too. Obviously, Washington is in that battle, too. They've made their way back up into the picture in the division.
"You look at the standings and it's a pretty big jam. In a normal season there might be more separation with 13 games left, but being that it's only a 48-game season it's harder to have a bigger gap than in other seasons. I think we've got a good group and will be able to battle through it all and come out on the right end."
With defenseman Joni Pitkanen now out the rest of the season with a broken heel bone, Canes coach Kirk Muller would like to get Faulk back in the lineup as soon as possible. But it may be a few more games before he can return.
"He's headed in the right direction and moving along good," Muller said. "It's a matter of grinding through it every day to where he gets comfortable to fight through the pain and be healthy enough to get playing."