Canes’ Svechnikov hopes to play in Game 6 after concussion

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Carolina Hurricanes rookie Andrei Svechnikov hopes to play in Game 6 against the Washington Capitals on Monday after suffering a concussion in a fight with Alex Ovechkin a week earlier.

Svechnikov took part in his first full team practice on Saturday during the Hurricanes’ morning skate before Game 5 of their first-round series. The 19-year-old Russian winger wore a yellow non-contact jersey and would need to clear the NHL’s concussion protocol before he returns to game action.

Coach Rod Brind’Amour was noncommittal about Svechnikov’s status for the remainder of the series. Svechnikov is one of three Carolina forwards out with injury, along with Micheal Ferland and Jordan Martinook.

Ovechkin knocked out Svechnikov with a right hook during a fight in the first period of Game 3. Both players has said the other asked to fight.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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Playoff injuries continue to pile up for Hurricanes

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As the Carolina Hurricanes hope to make it a long and successful Round 1 series against the Washington Capitals, and a deep run during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs in general, they’re not just facing talented opponents. They’re also facing “themselves,” and not just in a mental sense — they have to overcome the limitations on their own bodies.

Injuries are one of the top hurdles you have to overcome alongside bad bounces and hot goalies.

The good news for Carolina so far in Game 4 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live stream) is that the Hurricanes went up 1-0 with a Warren Foegele goal just 17 seconds into the contest.

The bad news is that while that good trend of a hot streak continued, a negative trend of injuries also persists. Carolina already came into Game 4 without Andrei Svechnikov because of that ill-fated fight against Alex Ovechkin, and they were also missing beefy forward Micheal Ferland thanks to an upper-body injury.

It’s unclear if Jordan Martinook will end up missing significantly time, but he needed help off the ice after an awkward bump into the boards. Martinook briefly returned toward the end of the first period, yet was not seen on the Hurricanes bench to begin the second, and the team eventually announced that he would not return for Game 4.

(You can see that unfortunate bump in the video above this post’s headline.)

Martinook isn’t a huge loss on his own, but when you consider that part of Carolina’s strength is depth and scoring by committee, the ice packs are really piling up. Consider that:

  • Martinook scored a career-high 15 goals and tied a career-high with 25 points this season, and had an assist coming into Game 4.
  • Ferland finished fourth in team scoring with 40 points, including 17 goals, and may have hit 20+ if he wasn’t limited to 71 games played.
  • Svechnikov’s been a fantastic rookie who’s flourished as he’s gained Rod Brind’Amour’s favor as the season went along. Svechnikov generated 20 goals and 37 points during the regular season, and had two goals and one assist for three points in his first three playoff games.

Those are three players who bring different abilities to the table, from grinding to having the sort of sniping skills that can break a tight postseason skirmish open – and the Hurricanes have to hope that most, if not all, of them can return to the lineup as they hope to push this Round 1 match longer.

The Hurricanes ended up winning Game 4 by a score of 2-1, tying the Round 1 series 2-2. Read more about that game here.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Williams ready for Canes’ first home playoff game in decade

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The last time Justin Williams played in a postseason game in Raleigh, he skated off with the Stanley Cup.

The stakes aren’t quite that high – yet – for the Carolina Hurricanes, but the third game of their best-of-seven series with the Washington Capitals on Monday night does bring his career full circle.

Now, ”Mr. Game 7” is ready for Game 3 – the first playoff game at PNC Arena in 10 years – and hoping to keep the Hurricanes from falling into a three-games-to-none hole.

”The anticipation of it is what’s getting people really excited, because a lot of people don’t really know what it is,” Williams said. ”Everyone’s telling them how great (playoff hockey in Raleigh) is and how fun it is, and it is, but really it’s something you’ve got to experience for yourself. It being a while now, you can kind of sometimes forget and fall into that trap that we’ve talked about of normalcy. But it’s everything it’s cracked up to be.”

Williams had a lot to do with creating the reputation that had gone dormant during that decade-long drought. As a 24-year-old in 2006, he helped the Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup, and his empty-net goal in Game 7 stands as one of the enduring images in club history. He had been traded to Los Angeles when Carolina made its only postseason appearance since, in 2009.

In the second year of his return, he wants to make more memories during a series he called the ”perfect storm” because of his strong ties to both franchises.

He spent just two seasons in Washington from 2015-17, and lost in the second round both years, but Capitals players and executives credit him for helping to lay the foundation of the team that last year won the Cup for the first time.

”He spoke when he needed to. But mostly it was his play,” Capitals winger T.J. Oshie said. ”Any time the game, the pressure rose or the game got more intense, Justin – or ‘Stick,’ as we call him – he always seemed to be able to rise to the occasion. And he always seemed to elevate his play to match that pressure. And that’s something we all tried to emulate, you know. Last year some guys did a great job of doing that. But it is something special and something not every guy can do. And he’s one of those guys who can do it.”

Carolina brought him back last season on a two-year deal, and then selected him as captain this season.

”I don’t think leadership skills … can be taught. You just be yourself,” Williams said. ”Fortunately, I’ve been around a lot of great leaders, so I’ve taken little bits and pieces of what I like about them and kind of make it my own. One of the more important things is, you can’t fake being a leader. You can’t manufacture being a leader. You just are. And you’ve got to try and do what you can. You can’t be bashful about it. You believe in yourself, or you don’t.”

His teammates say that role suits him, and he’s instilled a level of accountability that perhaps wasn’t always present during a drought that ranked as one of the longest in NHL history.

He also backed up his occasionally harsh words on the ice, ranking second on the team with 23 goals and third with 53 points while helping Carolina close the regular season by going 31-12-2 in its final 45 regular-season games to climb from last place in the division to a wild-card playoff berth.

Yet he also kept things light, masterminding the ”Storm Surge” postgame celebrations that took the league by storm.

”Just how vocal he is, how he demands a lot out of everybody … he is not afraid to hurt anybody’s feelings,” forward Jordan Martinook said. ”I think he’s figured out a very, very good way, and he’s a very good motivator. Very good guy to follow because he’s done it so many times, and to see his success in the playoffs and even our … stretch to the end of the year. You see the goals he scores, they’re big goals. It’s an easy guy to jump on his back.”

Williams has thrived throughout his career in Game 7s, owning the NHL record with 14 points in those games and scoring seven goals to tie the mark held by 15-year veteran Glenn Anderson. His teams are 7-1 in those games – hence, the ”Mr. Game 7” nickname.

The Hurricanes have a lot to do to force this one-sided series to a seventh game, but if it should get to that point, they’ll be glad they have Williams, just as the Capitals were during their two years with him.

”He has the right blend of leadership, have fun, compete,” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said. ”He really senses the tone of an organization, of a team, where they are at in the games and playoffs and he provides – and he did provide us with that leadership, and he is doing the same thing at Carolina now, so he’s just a great guy to have on your team.”

‘Jerk’ Hurricanes surge into first playoff series since 2009

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — They traded punches with Evander Holyfield. They dunked a basketball on ice. They flopped around like beached whales.

The Carolina Hurricanes have done plenty of unusual things this season, and here is one more: They are preparing for their first playoff series in a decade.

That team dubbed a ”bunch of jerks” over their wild, choreographed post-victory celebrations hopes to surge – or, perhaps more fittingly, Storm Surge – all the way to the Stanley Cup.

The Hurricanes, who open their first best-of-seven playoff series since 2009 on Thursday night at defending Cup champion Washington, are walking the fine line between savoring their rare-for-them accomplishment while not being completely satisfied with just making the field of 16.

”You never know when you’re going to be back in this situation,” 37-year-old captain Justin Williams said, ”because making the playoffs is hard – as people in this area know.”

Oh, do they know.

It has been nine seasons since the Hurricanes last skated in a springtime game that mattered. Only two franchises have gone longer between postseason appearances – the Florida Panthers from 2001-11 and the Edmonton Oilers from 2007-16, with each missing the playoffs for 10 straight seasons.

Yet first-year coach Rod Brind’Amour isn’t just happy to be here.

”We’re certainly expecting more – this isn’t what we signed up for,” he said. ”We all understand it’s a huge task, but we’re not going into this series not expecting to win, that’s for sure.”

The only current Carolina player who was on the ice for the Hurricanes’ last postseason series was center Jordan Staal – who at the time played for Pittsburgh, which swept those Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference finals.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

To finally end that drought, Carolina changed just about everything, from the players on the ice all the way up to the team owner. Tom Dundon bought a majority stake in the team from longtime owner Peter Karmanos Jr. last January, then promoted Don Waddell to general manager and hired Brind’Amour – who, as captain of the title-winning team in 2006, was the first player to hoist the Stanley Cup – as head coach.

Along the way, the team’s culture changed. Williams was selected as team captain after a failed experiment last year in which Staal and Justin Faulk shared the captaincy, and the players became more accountable to each other.

”Guys expect more out of themselves and expect more out of each other,” Williams said. ”And when we challenge each other to be better players, that’s the only way to improve as a team.”

They’re also having more fun after games, thanks to those Storm Surges.

Each one started with a slow, exaggerated overhead clap and ended with a different skit or activity. They celebrated March Madness by bringing a portable basketball hoop onto the ice and Trevor van Riemsdyk threw down a one-handed dunk . When Holyfield visited as a guest, they brought him onto the ice and the former boxing champ pretended to spar with Jordan Martinook. They marked Hartford Whalers night by flopping around on the ice like whales.

And when veteran hockey broadcaster Don Cherry ripped the celebrations and called the Hurricanes a ”bunch of jerks,” they turned the insult into a rallying cry – even selling T-shirts with the slogan at the team shop.

Even as Williams announced the team’s decision to halt the Surges late in the season, he left the door open for their return by calling them ”unpredictable.”

So was this playoff appearance. Just a few months ago, the Hurricanes were 15-17-5 on Dec. 30 and one point out of last place in the East.

Since then, they have gone 31-12-2.

”A lot of people that didn’t watch our team all year, they were, ‘What happened?’ and I don’t know that anything happened,” Brind’Amour said. ”The puck just started to go in. I still think the first 25 games were the best segment of our season, and yet our record didn’t show it, so what do I know? … I can’t tell you the change. When pucks started going in, I think you could see they had a little bit more swagger.”

So now, on a day usually reserved for melting the ice at PNC Arena, they were doing something different to it – placing the playoff logos inside the blue lines.

For Williams, who scored the winning goal in Game 7 of Carolina’s Cup run 13 years ago and came back before last season to try to bring the franchise back to those heights, it’s particularly satisfying.

”I think the atmosphere’s going to be electric,” Williams said. ”Still to this day, (Game 7 was) one of the loudest buildings I’ve ever been a part of. And playoff hockey coming back to the area, people are going to be ready. I know that.”

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Hurricanes’ ‘Storm Surge’ celebration is sadly coming to an end

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The Carolina Hurricanes are still fighting for their Stanley Cup Playoff hopes with six games remaining in the NHL regular season. Thursday’s game against the Washington Capitals is another huge one as the Canes seek to end a postseason drought dating back to 2009.

Win or lose, what will happen following the game will be memorable. The ‘Storm Surge,’ which has infuriated out-of-touch dinosaurs around hockey all season long, will take place one final time for the year, according to captain Justin Williams.

They’ve played baseball, done the limbo, used Andrei Svechikov as a human bowling ball, brought back “Duck Hunt,” and watched as former boxing heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield “knocked out” Jordan Martinook, among a number of other post-win celebrations. They pissed off Brian Burke, and Don Cherry’s disapproval with the ‘Storm Surge’ inspired the “Bunch of Jerks” t-shirts.

It’s been glorious.

“We felt at the end of games a little stick wave was getting a little monotonous and getting a little tiresome and quite frankly, a little bit forced,” Williams explained to Sports Illustrated earlier this season. “So we wanted to do a little bit more. We started off with something small and slowly we’ve been having a lot more fun with it.”

The ‘Storm Surge’ has been a rousing success for a market that has seen a lot of bad hockey over the last decade. After falling short of expectations the past few seasons, Carolina is in the hunt for a playoff spot and the fan base is full of excitement.

If you weren’t a fan of the ‘Storm Surge,’ well, they weren’t meant for you, as the team put it succinctly last month:

It’s a post-win tradition that’s connected the players and the fan base during a season that has re-energized a market that needed a jolt.

We can’t wait to see what ‘Storm Surge’ ideas they come up with next season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.