USA TODAY Sports Weekly
Injuries force teams to adapt, push through playoffs
RALEIGH, N.C. – Mackenzie MacEachern went from joining the Carolina Hurricanes as a call-up from the minors to skating on the team’s top line in a road playoff game for a team struggling with injuries.
“Obviously it’s a playoff game,” MacEachern said, “but it’s just trying to approach it like another game and try to keep my head straight.”
MacEachern’s multi-point performance illustrated how the test isn’t just about the performance of top-line stars. It’s as much about how well teams manage injuries that sideline key figures such as Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Dallas’ Joe Pavelski or Minnesota’s Joel Eriksson Ek.
That’s opened the door for players like the Stars’ Tyler Seguin to take on bigger roles and keep their teams moving forward.
“At the end of the day, hockey’s hockey and there’s certain things that it doesn’t matter what your systems are that are universal,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said Monday. “At the end of the day, if you go out and play hard, you’ve got a chance.”
MacEachern tallied a goal and an assist in his team’s 5-2 win, an opportunity that came when forward Jack Drury – himself elevated to a larger role due to injuries – was knocked from the game on a hard hit into the boards by Ryan Pulock.
Carolina was already missing and both out with season-ending injuries.
In Dallas, Seguin had two goals in Game 4, his first multi-goal postseason game since 2011. That came after a Game 1 hit from Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, even as he has begun skating.
“We need (Seguin), and I think he knows that,” Dallas coach Pete DeBoer said.
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“It’s a great luxury to be able to have a guy like Seguin playing in the depth of your lineup that, when someone goes down at the top, he’s played that role his entire career.
“He’s comfortable stepping in there.”