MONTREAL — Canes coach Paul Maurice said captain Eric Staal could be back in the lineup Tuesday for the Florida Panthers, missing just one game.
"We're hopeful that he's going to play for us Tuesday," Maurice said today at the Bell Centre. "Looks like that's where it's at right now."
Staal was injured late in the second period of the Canes' 4-1 win Friday over the Pittsburgh Penguins at the RBC Center. He collided with Pens defenseman Matt Niskanen in the Pens' zone, did not return to the game and did not make the trip to Montreal.
Asked if the team felt confident Staal did not suffer a concussion after an apparent hit to the head, Maurice said, "We're not sure where the hit was but we are hoping he is on the ice tomorrow. We may not go on, but he may want to skate tomorrow."
Maurice said his first reaction to seeing Staal down on the ice was, "Get up! Get up! We'll see how it plays out but I'm not overly concerned by it. He's such a strong man, such a powerful man, and I've seen him play through torn muscles and things like that. So we expect him back."
Niskanen was not fined or suspended by the league for the hit.
With Staal out, Maurice said Erik Cole likely would serve as an alternate captain tonight.
Staal's absence will have a ripple effect, just as it did Friday in the third period. Maurice said Tuomo Ruutu would center the top line with Cole and Cory Stillman, and that Brandon Sutter's line with Jiri Tlusty and Jussi Jokinen would not change.
Jeff Skinner will open at center tonight with Jerome Samson and Chad LaRose on the wings, Maurice said.
"We may even leave it when (Staal) comes back because that line of Skinner, Ruutu, LaRose haven't had it going," Maurice said of using Skinner at center. "We've been looking to kind of move that around anyway so we kind of killed two birds with one stone.
"Then, we get into this game and you'll see Paddy Dwyer come up and Samson come up. We'll move those around."
Samson, from Greenfield Park, Quebec, was a scratch Friday against the Pens.
"Jerome Samson gets to play his first game in Montreal, so there's some excitement there," Maurice said. "We have to look at the positives if we can when we lose a big guy."
Maurice said Cam Ward would start tonight for the Canes, who did not have a morning skate today.
Maurice was pleased with the strong play of defenseman Derek Joslin against the Pens. Joslin had a pair of assists and was plus-3 in the game.
Defenseman Brett Carson was placed on waivers today, TSN is reporting. If he clears, he should be reassigned to the Charlotte Checkers (AHL).
The Habs, who did not play Friday, have lost three of the last four and are 2-5-2 in their last nine. Montreal, like the Canes, made a key acquistion Thursday, picking up defenseman Brent Sopel from the Atlanta Thrashers.