If you’re having trouble keeping track of Justin Faulk these days, just imagine how he must feel.
On Wednesday morning, The NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes sent the rookie defenseman back to Charlotte, where he played three games over the weekend. In between AHL stints, he was only in Raleigh for two days and did not play in the team’s shootout loss to Ottawa on Tuesday.
He first made the trip to Raleigh immediately following the team’s third game in three days on Sunday, a contest in which he logged over 25 minutes of ice time, arriving at 11:30 p.m. After two Hurricanes practices, he was informed on Tuesday morning that he would be returning to Charlotte, but could not do so until after the game in case the team needed him in a pinch. That resulted in a 1 a.m. arrival back in the Queen City, where he returned to practice 10 hours later.
“I’m still trying to catch up on rest a little bit,” said the 19-year-old Faulk. “Hopefully it gets to be a familiar drive, or maybe not, depending on how you look at it.”
Faulk said that he wasn’t told anything specific about why he was brought back to Raleigh in the first place (“I didn’t really care to ask because it’s their decision,” he said), but admitted he was more surprised by this AHL assignment than he was his first one, which came after three consecutive appearances as a healthy scratch for the Hurricanes.
While he’d rather be playing in the NHL, Faulk seemed to be taking the decision in stride.
“I know that I’d rather be playing than sitting in the press box,” he said.
“As a young kid who’s still developing, he needs to play, and he understands that,” said Checkers coach Jeff Daniels.
When he arrived in Charlotte last week, coaches told Faulk that he would likely be returning to the Hurricanes after spending the weekend with the Checkers. Upon his latest reassignment, he did not receive any such hints.
“I didn’t hear anything about their plans this time, but for me it’s really the same as last time,” he said. “I’m here to do whatever I can to help the team win.”
In the coming days, Faulk’s odyssey will only become odder. On Thursday morning, the team departs for Oklahoma City for another three-in-three set that will also take it through San Antonio and Houston. That will be yet another new experience for the first-year pro, who has played his first regular-season games at the AHL and NHL level, scored his first professional goal and played his first three-in-three, all in the last several weeks.
“I had a couple (three-in-threes) in summer camps and things like that, but nothing during a season,” said Faulk, a product of the U.S. National Development Team Program and the University of Minnesota-Duluth. “The legs were definitely tired by the end of it.”
He doesn’t figure to get much relief, with Daniels planning to again use him extensively on the road trip.
“He has that (offensive) element to his game, has a heavy shot, can skate it out of our zone and doesn’t shy away from the physical part,” said Daniels. “He’s definitely a guy that can handle a lot of minutes, but we’re not going to kill him.”
Of course, all of that is assuming that Faulk actually goes on the road trip, and that the unforeseen doesn’t happen yet again.
“He’s coming,” said Daniels. “Unless I’ve got a message on my phone that I haven’t seen yet.”
There is more doubt about goaltender Justin Peters, who left Friday’s game with a lower-body injury and did not skate again until Tuesday’s practice. He missed Wednesday’s on-ice session because of a doctor’s appointment, after which time Daniels said his status would be reevaluated. John Muse, recalled from Florida after Peters’ injury, remains with the team as the third goaltender.
At forward, Daniels said the team would continue to keep an eye on Carolina before making a recall of its own. With Zach Boychuk and Brett Sutter still in Raleigh, the Checkers have just 11 on their roster. According to the Hurricanes' official website
, Hurricanes forward Anthony Stewart, whose injury prompted Boychuk’s recall, is expected to return to practice on Thursday.
Lines from Wednesday's practice: