The Hamilton Spectator

Hurricanes managing key injuries, tight Metropolit­an Division race


Rod Brind’Amour wouldn’t mind seeing his Carolina Hurricanes coast into the playoffs.

Given the razor-thin margins in the battle for this season’s Metropolit­an Division crown, that’s unlikely to be the case.

Carolina has been in a back-andforth battle with the New Jersey Devils in an arduous sprint that could come down to the schedule’s final week in mid-April.

“We can’t afford to lose a game because New Jersey’s not losing,” Brind’Amour, the team’s head coach, said recently. “It’s definitely been a stressful year that way because you feel like you have to win every night.

“But it’s kept us on our toes.” The Hurricanes beat the hardchargi­ng New York Rangers — another division foe — 3-2 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, while the Devils fell 2-1 in overtime to the Minnesota Wild at home.

Carolina cracked the 100-point mark with the victory to sit two up on New Jersey with a pair of games in hand.

And, if the Hurricanes do manage to finish atop the Metro, they’ll have done it without a couple of key pieces for long stretches.

Off-season acquisitio­n Max Pacioretty has missed almost the entire campaign with a pair of Achilles injuries.

He returned from surgery on his damaged right tendon in early January, but suffered a second tear just two weeks later.

Carolina then lost another star forward in Andrei Svechnikov when he was diagnosed with a season-ending knee injury earlier this month.

“Keep trying to pick the pieces up,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s kind of a by-committee group anyway, and certainly has to be now.

“You gotta move on. The only people we feel sorry for are the guys that are missing. Would have been two huge pieces for us, but they’re not here.”

Hurricanes forward Seth Jarvis said the group is well-situated to deal with the subtractio­ns.

“We’ve done a good job of not only building as a team chemistry-wise, but dealing with adversity,” he said. “We’re going to continue to do well because we’re such a tight group.”

But, while Carolina has managed Pacioretty’s absence all season, the loss of Svechnikov presents a different challenge because there’s no chance of any help coming with the National Hockey League trade deadline having passed.

“Everyone kinda gets bumped around,” Jarvis said of the lineup machinatio­ns.

“You can’t replace him. We don’t need anyone trying to go out and be (Svechnikov). We need everyone to try to be the best versions of themselves.”

One player who’s arrived better than advertised is Brent Burns. Acquired from the San Jose Sharks in the off-season, the veteran defenceman has been a breath of fresh air since landing in Raleigh, N.C.

“Phenomenal,” Brind’Amour said. “Knew he was a great player, but just to see how he prepares and his willingnes­s to get better every day … it’s all about winning.”

Jarvis, 21, said it’s been eye-opening to see the fire in a player who turned 38 earlier this month.

“He’s been unbelievab­le, especially for me as a young guy having someone to look up to,” Jarvis said. “He brings a lot of fun and enjoyment.

“Seeing someone at 37, 38 years old enjoying the game that much makes it easy for everybody.”

Brind’Amour, who played against Burns in the twilight of his own career, has got to know the colourful blue-liner off the ice at their sons’ hockey games.

“A great Hurricane,” he said. “Wish we could have had him for 20 years … we’ll take him as long as he can hang in there.”

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