Cole skates at practice

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:53 PM ET

PITTSBURGH -- It appears the Carolina Hurricanes will get a big boost for Game 2 of their Eastern Conference final tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Mellon Arena.

Speedy forward Erik Cole, who was sidelined by a knee-on-knee hit instigated by Pens forward Matt Cooke in the third period of Game 1 Monday, participated in the Canes morning skate today and is expected to be back in the lineup.

"He looked good out there," Canes forward Eric Staal said. "He's a big part of our team."

Added teammate Scott Walker: "We need all we can get this time of year."

Canes coach Paul Maurice was not impressed by Cooke's actions at the time. For his part, Cooke responded by claiming the incident "was not dirty."

While Cole's expected return is welcomed, the news was not as good concerning forward Tuomo Ruutu, who suffered a lower body injury in the opener, a 3-2 Penguins victory. Ruttu's ailment will leave him out of the lineup tonight, barring a miracle recovery.

However, according to the Raleigh News And Observer, team officials believe Ruutu could return for Game 3 Saturday in Raleigh.


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