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Lower-body injury knocks Hurricanes’ Murphy out of opening night lineup

An injury to oft-injured Ryan Murphy could open up a spot for an even younger defenseman to take his place on the Carolina Hurricanes blueline.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ryan Murphy has never played a full NHL campaign in his four-year career, and 2016-17 won’t be the season he logs a full slate of games.

Murphy, 23, has suffered a lower-body injury, and according to Hurricanes coach Bill Peters, Murphy could miss anywhere from three to four weeks, which means an absence of 10 or more games could be in the offing. It’s an awful break for Murphy, who has had to deal with injury after injury through his career and has never played more than 48 games in a single season.

The 2016-17 campaign was going to be an important one for Murphy, too. He signed a two-year, $1.575-million deal in the off-season, but since being selected 12th-overall in 2011, Murphy hasn’t been able to really hit his stride with Hurricanes. In fact, he’s actually slid down the depth chart over the past few seasons, falling behind Jaccob Slavin, Noah Hanifin and Brett Pesce.

When coming into the league, Murphy was heralded an offensive defenseman, but at this point he’s yet to show it. His career high is four goals and 13 points during the 2014-15 campaign, and during the past season, he failed to net a single goal and registered just 10 points. He fell to a third-pairing role, averaging 17:15, after skating 18-plus minutes in the two seasons prior.

The one positive to come out of the situation is that the Hurricanes may get an extended look at one of their younger defensemen, such as Haydn Fleury, Trevor Carrick or Roland McKeown. The trio of young blueliners have been pushing for a roster spot, and there’s a chance one of the three could do well enough to take over the sixth spot on the Hurricanes.

Fleury is an especially interesting prospect, as he’s been touted highly since being selected seventh overall in 2014. Some considered Fleury ready for full time NHL duty in 2015-16, but he was sent back to the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels and was stellar on the Canadian World Junior team’s blueline. He could, however, be ready to make the jump this season. Last season, Fleury managed 12 goals and 41 points with the Rebels in 56 games this past season.

Fleury isn’t the only one impressing, though, as McKeown has been making a push for a roster spot. Acquired as part of the Hurricanes’ deal that shipped Andrej Sekera to the Los Angeles Kings at the 2015 trade deadline, McKeown posted seven goals and 42 points in 59 games for the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs and has scored one goal in three exhibition contests.

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