Resilient Hurricanes host desperate Isles in Game 3
The Carolina Hurricanes have been hurting this postseason, but they’ve also been winning.
That has kept their spirits high despite major roster fluctuation in the past couple of weeks.
On Wednesday night they will try to build on their 2-0 lead against the New York Islanders in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.
In order to make up from absences from the roster, the Hurricanes have had some intangibles going their way.
“The compete level and the resiliency of our group has been satisfying, but it has been that way all year,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
The latest setbacks on the injury front came with three players exiting Sunday’s 2-1 win in Game 2 with various ailments.
Goalie Petr Mrazek left with a lower-body injury, but by Monday his status was ruled day-to-day. It’s not so good for defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, who could have an extended absence, and forward Saku Maenalanen, who’s out for at least the rest of the series, both with upper-body injuries.
Carolina recalled 23-year-old goalie Alex Nedeljkovic from the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League. Jake Bean, a 20-year-old defenseman, was also summoned from the Checkers.
The Hurricanes have won three straight games, all away from home, in the past week. The stretch began last Wednesday with a Game 7 win in Washington.
“You can say we got lucky here and there,” Brind’Amour said. “But we got unlucky on that first goal (in Game 2). We got unlucky with all the injuries happened. So it’s kind of going both ways. Depends on what side of the fence you’re on.”
Islanders coach Barry Trotz said their objective this week is to put wins together, one at a time.
“You can’t win two unless you focus on the first, so we’ll focus on the first and go from there,” he said.
The Hurricanes have already knocked off the defending champion Capitals. Now they’re trying to topple the team coached by last year’s title-winning coach.
Trotz has directed teams out of playoff deficits in the past and he has tried to instill confidence in the Islanders.
“We’ve had lots of chances,” Trotz said. “It hasn’t been a series where they’ve outchanced us, outplayed us. I think we’ve played a good portion of carrying the play, if you will, in good portions of the first two games.”
Yet New York has questions regarding player availability as well. Forward Cal Clutterbuck exited Game 2 with an injury.
The good thing for the Islanders is that they’ve won consecutive road games this postseason, doing so in a first-round sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But this time it’s more desperate, being in a two-game hole.
“We’ve just got to respond,” Trotz said. “It was no different than the first series. You’ve just got to respond.”
Mrazek had been the only goalie used by Carolina until he departed in the second period Sunday. The Hurricanes turned to backup Curtis McElhinney, who stopped all 17 shots he faced.
“He doesn’t need a lot of work to be sharp,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s kind of been his role all his career. That’s a pro. That’s what we’ve got with him.