Canes forward Tuomo Ruutu may be able to rejoin the lineup sooner than expected.
After Ruutu underwent hip surgery in December, it was believed he might need until the end of April to recover. General manager Jim Rutherford said then that Ruutu likely would miss the regular season but could return for the playoffs.
But Rutherford said this week that March 15 was the date doctors will decide if Ruutu can be cleared to return to practice. And Canes coach Kirk Muller said Sunday that once he's back in practices it may not take long for him to be ready to play.
"Hopefully by next week we get the green light from him," Muller said. "I think it will start off as team practices, then physical contact. He's a guy who has kept himself in pretty good shape. I think once it starts, as far as practices, I don't think he's too far off.
"If he feels good, you could see him being ready to get in the lineup. I don't know how long it will take but I don't think it will take too long."
Ruutu did some early skating Sunday before the Canes' closed practice for the team's full season-ticket holders. Also skating was defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
This is great news because the sooner Ruutu returns, the sooner the Canes can make a move. When he returns, I can see the Canes swinging LaRose and Bowman to Pittsburgh for Tyler Kennedy.
I could see the Canes rolling into the playoffs with the following line-up...
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin
Jeff Skinner - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Jussi Jokinen - Riley Nash - Tuomo Ruutu
Tim Wallace - Tim Brent - Patrick Dwyer
Tim Gleason - Joni Pitkanen
Jay Harrison Justin Faulk
Joe Corvo - Jamie McBain
I think that team right there could make a strong run at the cup.