Sami Vatanen could return, and there's a possibility Dougie Hamilton could be back for the Carolina Hurricanes if the NHL season resumes from its pause caused by the coronavirus.
Each defenseman was sidelined by a lower-body injury when the season was halted March 12.
"That would be a positive," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said Wednesday. "If you get those guys back in the lineup, suddenly now the team looks a lot different with a Dougie Hamilton and Sami Vatanen in your lineup. Suddenly that [defense] corps looks pretty impressive. That would be interesting to see if that happens."
Hamilton fractured his left fibula Jan. 16, and Vatanen was injured Feb. 1 blocking a shot while playing for the New Jersey Devils. After being traded Feb. 24, he skated with the Hurricanes a few times but experienced a setback that prevented him from making his Carolina debut.
"We were told he was going to be ready the first week of March when we made the deal, and that didn't happen," Brind'Amour said. "Now I would say that would be for sure, but you never know."
Hamilton had 40 points (14 goals, 26 assists) in 47 games and was among the leading contenders for the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL before he was injured. Although most of the Hurricanes players returned to their offseason homes, Hamilton has remained in North Carolina to continue his rehabilitation.
Carolina said in February it was hopeful he could play by early April, but his return could be hindered because it's unknown when he'll have an opportunity to resume skating with the Hurricanes' facilities and other ice rinks closed by the pandemic.
"I do know that he's been progressing, and he wanted to get on the ice, I heard, but there's no rinks," Brind'Amour said. "But he at least reached out about the possibility of that, so that's a good sign."
The Hurricanes were getting healthier before the pause, with goalie Petr Mrazekreturning from a concussion to play in a 5-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings on March 10. Goalie James Reimer was close to returning from a lower-body injury he sustained Feb. 22.