Before play was stopped due to coronavirus, we had seen a large string on injuries occurring in games across the NHL. One of these impacting the Carolina Hurricanes was the loss of star player Dougie Hamilton who suffered a broken left fibula, an injury that was originally going to rule the star man out for the remainder of the season. Hamilton had suffered this injury during the ‘Canes last game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 16th.
Hamilton had to leave the game against the Blue Jackets early, being carried off the ice by teammates and a team medical specialist during the second period. The injury was the result of an odd spill after being tangled with Kevin Stenlund. Once Hamilton had hit the ground, it became clear that an injury had occurred and the player would need to be helped off the ice, seeing the odd bend that his left leg had taken while collapsing under him. He was left unable to return to the game and needed to be evaluated by medical professionals.
Hamilton’s injury led to him being unable to attend the NHL All-Star weekend held in St. Louis from January 24th-25th, leading to his defensive partner, Jacob Slavin, taking his place. Hamilton had experienced a career high in minutes per game, while being tied for second in points, fourth in goals and tied for seventh in assists among all NHL defensemen, as well as placing second amongst all NHL skaters in +/- with a +/- rating of +30 before his injury took place.
“Arguably one of our best players this year. He’s our All Star. It shook everybody up seeing that happen. It’s the cliché hockey next-man-up type thing, but that’s a lot of big minutes to find. Guys will have to step up, and hopefully we can get him back sooner rather than later.”Jordan Martinook when talking to Michael Smith
Hamilton had reportedly undergone surgery in January which only saw him return to practice recently as the surgeon cleared him for play, having done continued rehabilitation in Raleigh, North Carolina throughout the course of the break that had started in March, undergoing regiments of physical therapy and on-ice strength training to get Hamilton ready to play again.
While Hamilton is reportedly back at 100% health, we wait to see whether that physical recovery will also see Hamilton back to the form he was in before injury, having set him on the path to have one of the best seasons of his career and most certainly one of the best seasons since the now 27-year-old moved to the Hurricanes, even being reported by team centre Jordan Staal when talking to NHL.com writer, Tom Gulitti.
While Hamilton is expected to play in the five-game series in the NHL’s play-in round, if he is not seen as being back in form, the team may consider young defensemen Haydn Fleury and allow Hamilton to recover for a while longer in an attempt to get the player back in full swing for if the team does make it through the qualifying round for the Stanley Cup. GM Don Waddell had announced that Hamilton was able to skate and had been in form during team practices, so it can be expected that Hamilton will play in at least the first two games of these qualifiers with the possibility of some line rotation as the ‘Canes factor in Sami Vatanen who had been out injured since he was acquired from the New Jersey Devils. There is not much room for experimentation in this series, as teams only need to win three games in the first round in order to knock out their opponents, leading to the team possibly sticking to the system that worked before the break if they see Hamilton not jumping back into form.
Luckily, the team has a one-game buffer with their return-to-play match against the Columbus Blue Jackets, in which they can see if the Hamilton-Slavin line can come back to its full glory as one of the top defensive lines in the NHL this season.