John Forslund

Time for Walker

Posted April 2, 2009

As the Carolina Hurricanes hit the ice tonight in search of their franchise record 10th straight win at home, they have an opportunity to do so with one of the grittiest components back in the line up. Although Paul Maurice has elected not to commit to adding Scott Walker until after his morning skate or as he called it a "game time decision, "24" will be back in the line up tonight. It also comes at the appropriate time.

You might say hold on a minute, the Canes are playing their best hockey and maybe some conventional wisdom would say NOT to tinker with an existing winning line up. We have been down this road before, you can look back to the final week of the regular season last year and point to the reinstatement of Ray Whitney and Justin Williams. That kind of hindsight logic has no place here, nor does the replacement of Walker hold any comparison. At least that's my opinion and that's I all need to support here. Ah yes, the logic behind blogging.

Scott Walker has been absent since March 6th, when he played just over 5 minutes and scored one goal in a 6-1 shellacking of Calgary. A recurrence of his symptoms relating to his hit from Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke in late January took place and he was given time off. That is when his detachment from the group would begin and some rocky days were ahead. Days when Walker would feel terrible, others when he would start out fine finish poorly and vice versa. These are times when a player does not enjoy his quality of life very much. They sit and wait for the symptoms to go away and it can be grueling. There is at times too much opportunity to think about what's wrong and where they may go from here. I'm told it can be taxing and weighing on one's conscience. Inevitably, a player wonders about his career but also his life moving forward.

Those days are long gone for Scott. As his coach said yesterday he has been cleared to play for about two weeks. He has been with the team, going through regular workouts and traveling with the group. Even to the point where yesterday he lost a few "chicklets" during practice. The foundation has been laid and now it's decision time.

The time to reappear on the roster sheet is right now. He will slide into a fourth line role and unfortunately supplant a player who has made a contribution to the Canes success. It's obviously come at the expense of Dwight Helminen, Ryan Bayda or Tim Conboy. At this writing we don't have the answer for that but the Canes are likely to leave Conboy in for his rugged dimension and make a choice between Bayda or Helminen. Both of these players have worked hard but the Hurricanes return a player that will be more than effective in his role at the perfect time.

Given the Canes long layoff (since Saturday) they will need every ounce of physicality and experience in a game like this. The addition of a veteran player who knows his way around the tough areas will certainly be welcomed. Unlike a season ago when Whitney and Williams came back into "top six" roles, this player will start on the fourth line and likely play fourth line minutes. There is no reason to alter the winning formula of the top nine until Matt Cullen is healthy. So the Canes can utilize him in this capacity without changing a whole lot. Lastly if there are any Sean Avery "shenanigans" tonight Scott Walker has been there and done that. The Hurricanes have just another "counter punch" in that department.

This is player that has earned this opportunity. Since joining the Hurricanes in '06 he has brought a lot to the table. But there is a burn inside Scott Walker. You see he joined a group that has won the Stanley Cup the season before but since have not had very little team success. The Hurricanes have a huge game tonight. This team is positioned to make the playoffs. Scott Walker can do nothing more than help solidify those hopes. Welcome back Scottie, we've missed ya!!!

Enjoy.

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