Carolina went into last week with a depth chart that looked something like this:
Color key: Orange = Injured player, Blue = Not waiver exempt, Green = Non contract player
Since then, Carolina has seen five different players suffer injuries and now their depth looks more like this:
To sum things up, in the short span of one week the Hurricanes have a top-six forward, who is also their best scorer, their fourth line center along with three top-four defensemen. Replacing them will be two centers from the AHL who have played a combined eight NHL games and three defensemen who are currently undergoing their first season in the NHL. One of which was just recalled from junior hockey. Carolina's depth wasn't anything to brag about to begin with but they are going to be even more strained now with third liners and AHL-callups making up most of their top-nine.
Carolina's top-end talent is much better than it was last season thanks to Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal but after that top line, things get very dicey and I haven't even begun to talk about the state of the Canes defense. Justin Faulk might be having an outstanding season, but the cupboard is somewhat bare after him considering all of the injuries. At least one of Michal Jordan, Bobby Sanguinetti or Ryan Murphy will have to step up into the top-four if the roster stays as it is.
If there is a bright side to this situation it is that injuries are temporary and Carolina's roster isn't going to look like this for the rest of the year. In fact, they might be getting Joni Pitkanen back very soon but let's say that it does stay like this for a few more games. What will happen then?
Well, if Monday's game against Montreal is any indication it won't be pretty, but I hope that isn't the norm we will see from this roster on a nightly basis. Kirk Muller and the rest of the coaching staff know that this team has a realistic chance of making the playoffs so it's going to be up to them to get the most out of the hand they've currently been dealt. It's not an ideal situation but the Hurricanes aren't completely hopeless either.
Many of the guys who were called up were among their AHL affiliate's best players and now is a good time to see what they have to offer. Both Riley Nash and Jeremy Welsh were possible candidates to make the team out of training camp but ultimately got lost in the numbers game and started in the AHL. The injuries give these two a chance to show the coaching staff what they have and if they are cut out for the NHL. Zac Dalpe is also an option to be called up and he honestly doesn't seem like a bad option in Skinner's absence.
The defense is in a similar situation only a couple of these players weren't expected to make the NHL until at least another year. Then again, Michal Jordan was an AHL All-Star this year and has been one of Charlotte's best defensemen, so giving him a taste of the NHL now may not be the worst thing in the world. The high number of injuries also allows Carolina to give Ryan Murphy a tryout without the risk of burning a year of his ELC. I still think he isn't ready but playing him in one or two games can't hurt right now with the shape Carolina's defense is in.
Injuries are something that every team has to deal with and unfortunately for the Hurricanes, they all seem to be happening at once. I mentioned in an earlier post that Carolina doesn't need to overacheive that much to make the playoffs or win the division, but they might need to if the injuries to Skinner, Pitkanen, McBain, Gleason and Brent are prolonged. Hopefully this stretch of injuries doesn't last for more than a couple weeks but until everyone gets healthy, it's going to be up to the coaching staff to get the most out of this roster and the players to perform. If Monday's game is a sign of things to come then hard times might be ahead for Carolina, but I have a feeling that they are better than what they showed that night.