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Carolina’s Pitkanen might not return until March

Jan 26, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT

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pitkanenap AP

There was hope in the Hurricanes organization that defenseman Joni Pitkanen would return to the lineup following the All-Star break.

But it seems his laundry list of health issues will keep that from happening.

Carolina GM Jim Rutherford told the News and Observer that Pitkanen — who has been out since suffering a concussion on Dec. 6, then underwent knee surgery on Jan. 6 — might not be available to the team until March.

“He’s coming along,” Rutherford said. “Obviously he’s a real good player for us and hopefully he’ll feel better soon.

“It’s all about the approach to rehab and how you go about the rehab. Based on his rehab, it should be about the first of March when he can get back to skating. Then it would be a week or so before he’s playing.”

Pitkanen’s absence has really hurt the ‘Canes. Prior to getting injured he led all defensemen in ice time (22:35) and was arguably the team’s most skilled blueliner. Pitkanen registered 12 points through 21 games early on in the season, which had him on pace for a 45-50 point season.

An interesting development from the Pitkanen injury is that Rutherford claims it won’t prevent him from being active at the trade deadline. Fellow defensemen Tim Gleason, Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek are all impending UFAs and believed to be coveted by more than a few playoff-bound teams.

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