WASHINGTON -- Ryan Murphy wasn't sure how long he would be around and playing for the Canes.
One game? Would that be it? There was no way of knowing.
Turns out, it will be at least four. The defenseman will be in the Canes lineup, and playing his fourth NHL game, against the Washington Capitals tonight at the Verizon Center.
"I didn't know what to expect," Murphy said today. "I really thought it could be one game, two games. Obviously, it's a great experience and I'm going to take it one day at a time.
"Before, I had some doubts. I didn't know if I was fast enough or big enough to play at this level. But after my first game I thought to myself, 'Hey, maybe I can jump in next year and play for this team.'"
When the Canes lost defensemen Tim Gleason, Joni Pitkanen and Jamie McBain to injuries, the team was able to bring Murphy in from the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. As an emergency call-up, Murphy must go back to junior when one of the three is healthy enough to rejoin the lineup.
But Murphy is making the most of it. He had 23:51 in his first game Feb. 21 against Winnipeg at PNC Arena -- quite an NHL debut for the 19-year-old. He was in for 25:57 on Saturday against Tampa Bay, struggling at times in the defensive zone and finishing minus-3, then played about 16 minutes Sunday against the New York Islanders.
Murphy was paired with Jay Harrison in his debut, then was teamed with Michal Jordan.
"It's been great," Murphy said of the experience. "It's the NHL and whoever you're playing with is a world-class hockey player. I had a lot of fun playing with Jay Harrison. Michal Jordan was a great partner. Now I'm looking forward to playing with a new one today."
That will be Marc-Andre Gragnani, who was called up Monday from the Charlotte Checkers (AHL).
Murphy, the Canes' first-round pick in 2011, knows his NHL stint should end soon. The Canes can play him a maximum of five games before his entry-level contract kicks in, so it could be five games. Or Gleason, Pitkanen or McBain could be ready to play Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and that will be that -- back to junior.
Regardless, Murphy soon should be headed back to Kitchener, but said, "I think it will be good to go back and keep this pace up in my game. That would be really good for me.
"Obviously it won't be the same. But we're coming down to the playoffs in Kitchener and this year we want to make a good run for it. Everyone has to be at the top of their game, regardless of who they play, so if I go back I'm going to treat every game like I did playing here."
At 5-11 and 180 pounds, Murphy still needs to add some bulk. But he has the speed, the quickness, the ability to move and shoot the puck. Canes coach Kirk Muller even said he reminds him a bit of Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators.
Told of Muller's comments, Murphy smiled.
"He's a great player who has accomplished a lot in his career," he said. "I have a long way to go."