Saku Maenalanen

Hurricanes aiming to close out Islanders as quick as possible

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The Carolina Hurricanes really make it count when they get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Since the franchise moved from Hartford in 1996, the Hurricanes have made the postseason six times. Three times they’ve advanced to at least the Eastern Conference Final (and twice making the Stanley Cup Final in 2002 and 2006). On Friday night, it could be a fourth conference final appearance should they managed to finish the sweep against the New York Islanders in Game 4 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live stream).

According to the NHL, teams that take 3-0 leads in a best-of-seven series are 188-4 all-time. Only four teams, including the 1974-75 Islanders, have overcome such a deficit.

This is a new playoff experience for head coach Rod Brind’Amour with the Hurricanes. Those three conference final appearances featured him as player — twice as team captain — so he understands just how important it is to get that fourth win and not allow the slightest bit of hope to enter your opponents’ minds.

“You never look at the big picture. You’re always focused on your next game,” Brind’Amour said. “Whether we’re up three or down three, you want to be desperate to win that game. That’s the approach we have to take. You know the other team is going to be that way. They don’t have a choice. Sometimes having that tomorrow is not a good thing because when your back’s against the wall, you give it everything you can. We have to come with that mindset, as well, otherwise it’s going to be tough.”

 [NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Closing out the Islanders as soon as possible will be a huge benefit to the beat up Hurricanes. Petr Mrazek will not play in Game 4, giving Curtis McElhinney another opportunity in net. Andrei Svechnikov and Jordan Martinook returned for Game 3, but the team is still waiting on Micheal Ferland, who is still day-to-day. Trevor van Riemsdyk remains out indefinitely with an upper-body injury, while Saku Maenalanen (hand) could be healed up in time for Round 3, if Carolina does advance.

The Hurricanes have won five in a row and are undefeated (4-0) at PNC Arena this postseason. Friday night they have the opportunity to complete their first ever best-of-seven series sweep, a decade after they were swept out of the 2009 playoffs, the last time they made the postseason.

It wasn’t long ago the Hurricanes were fighting for their playoff lives and here they are on the brink of an achievement many didn’t think possible just a few weeks ago. The “bunch of jerks” have bucked the trends all season long and not allowing anything — injuries, series deficits, higher seeds — to stand in their way.

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice,” said captain Justin Williams. “You don’t wait for it, you achieve it. We’re not waiting around to see what happens. We’re going to try to go get it.”

MORE: Should Isles turn to Greiss in Game 4?

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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.

The Wraparound: Islanders still believe they ‘can turn this around’

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

It’s not an ideal spot to be in, but the Islanders still believe they can come back to win their second-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Isles have their work cut out for them starting in Game 3 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN), as they dropped the first two games on home ice. But the margin between winning and losing in this series has been slim. In Game 1, they lost 1-0 in overtime. In Game 2, they had a 1-0 lead for most of the game but they allowed the Hurricanes to score twice in the third frame.

“That’s the way it goes sometimes,” forward Josh Bailey said. “It could be 2-0 us, but it’s 0-2. We can’t get down. We still feel good about our group and have confidence that we can turn this around… They play very structured. I feel like it’s similar to the way we play. You can’t let frustration set in. We’ve found ways to frustrate teams throughout the year and in the playoffs. You can’t let them reverse it back on you. You’ve got to just stick with it, and we will.”

As Bailey points out, why wouldn’t the Islanders be confident?

Under head coach Barry Trotz, they put together a 103-point season and they totally revamped the way they defended as a team. They’ve received some really good goaltending from Robin Lehner and their better offensive players have chipped in at opportune times (before this series).

Assuming they can extend this series, they’ll have to find a way to use home-ice as an advantage again. In the first round, Nassau Coliseum was rocking and intimidating. It looked like the Isles were invincible there. Unfortunately for them, they’ve moved to Barclays Center in Round 2 and that feeling of invincibility is gone.

But before they can return home, they have to win at least one of these two upcoming games in Raleigh.

“I said to them, ‘Hey, we’re going to Carolina to win two games, plain and simple.’ You can’t win two unless you focus on the first, so we’ll focus on the first and go from there,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

Of course, the fact that the Hurricanes are so banged up should play into the Islanders’ favor. Goalie Curtis McElhinney made a few great stops when he entered Game 2 in relief of Petr Mrazek, but it’ll be interesting to see if the veteran can keep that up for an entire game or multiple games. Andrei Svechnikov, Jordan Martinook and Micheal Ferland have also missed extended periods of time, while Trevor van Riemsdyk and Saku Maenalanen are expected to miss the rest of the series.

 [NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

TODAY’S SCHEDULE: 

Game 4: St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars, 9:30 p.m. ET, Blues lead 2-1: The Stars were able to battle back from three one-goal deficits in Game 3, but they ultimately fell on a late goal by Blues forward Patrick Maroon. As much as they traded punches with St. Louis in that game, they need to find a way to stop chasing the game and they have to get off to a better start. Ben Bishop didn’t have his best game either, so getting him back to Vezina Trophy form will be a key if the Stars are going to head back to St. Louis tied, 2-2. (NBCSN; 9:30 p.m. ET)

TUESDAY’S SCORES:
Blue Jackets 2, Bruins 1
Sharks 4, Avalanche 2

PHT’s Round 2 previews
Round 2 schedule, TV info
Questions for the final eight teams
PHT Roundtable
Blue Jackets vs. Bruins
Hurricanes vs. Islanders
Blues vs. Stars
Avalanche vs. Sharks

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Hurricanes rally around injuries, take 2-0 series lead vs. Islanders

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It’s almost as if adversity galvanizes the Carolina Hurricanes, with every blow bringing the team closer together in their fight for the Stanley Cup.

These particular playoffs — their first in a decade — haven’t been kind to the Hurricanes, who entered the game already without Andrei Svechnikov, Micheal Ferland and Jordan Martinook. Injuries didn’t halt their progress in Round 1, winning a seven-game series against the Washington Capitals despite missing some key pieces.

And while three more names were added to that growing list — queue up that one Drowning Pool song — Carolina banded together to come from behind as they took a 2-0 Round 2 series lead against the New York Islanders after a 2-1 win on Sunday.

“It’s not easy, that’s for sure, because you’re asking a lot of guys that are out of their comfort zone and doing things they don’t normally do,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’amour said following the game. “But that’s playoffs, that’s part of it. It is a war of attrition a lot of times in the playoffs. We’ve just got to figure it out.”

Trevor van Riemsdyk was gone just 36 seconds into the game and Petr Mrazek followed suit in the second period as he slid from across his crease on an apparent non-contact injury. Saku Maenalanen was the third body to hit the trainer’s table, with his injury happening in the third period after providing a big assist.

“That’s tough, but hopefully those guys will heal up quickly,” Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin said. “But we’ve got a lot of guys that haven’t been playing that are ready to step in and do their job.”

That’s six injuries and a 2-0 series lead heading back to Raleigh, with a much needed extra day off in between.

Carolina’s ability to deal with the ebbs and flows of a game is remarkable at this point.

Sunday’s game was tight through two periods the Islanders took a 1-0 lead from Mathew Barzal on the power play, New York’s first goal on the man-advantage in their past 10 tries.

In the second, before Mrazek was replaced by Curtis McElhinney, the Hurricanes failed to produce on an extended 5-on-3. Mrazek’s injury soon after must have felt like a kick to the ribs while they were already lying on the floor.

But somewhere between there and the beginning of the third, Carolina regrouped.

Warren Foegele‘s fifth came just 17 seconds into the period to tie the game and the Hurricanes had a 2-1 lead just 48 seconds later when Nino Niederreiter put the perfect tip on a point shot for his first of the playoffs.

“Leadership in that room,” Brind’amour said. “It’s simple. Jordan Staal. Justin Williams. Jaccob Slavin. Those are our best players every night. They’re leading a group and they don’t have a choice but to follow these guys.”

Brind’Amour figured Mrazek’s injury was similar to the one he picked up back in November, one that forced him to miss a month of action. Yikes.

McElhinney proved to be a formidable backup. He had just 82 minutes of playoff experience heading into this game but he was up to the task, making 17 saves in relief.

One wonders how long the Hurricanes can be without such a large contingent of their roster. Game 3 could conceivably look like the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina’s Amerian Hockey League affiliate) are getting a game in the playoffs depending on the severity of the ailments. And the Islanders had their chances in the third, with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Pulock both hitting he crossbar and Anders Lee narrowly missing an open net on Pulock’s rebound.

For now, however, we’ll continue to believe that the Hurricanes can manage in some of the most unappealing situations. They’ve done it so far. Why doubt them?

Game 3 goes Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN from PNC Arena. 


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Capitals host Hurricanes on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

With six games to play, Washington leads the Metro by just one point over the Islanders. Washington is vying for its fourth consecutive division title. They are coming off a big 3-1 win at home against Philadelphia on Sunday, and now face a tough three-game stretch against two of the league’s top teams.

Since winning seven straight games from Feb. 24 – March 10, the Caps are just 3-3-1 in their last seven, including losses to Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Tampa twice. Sunday’s win snapped a two-game skid which saw Washington lose twice at home – to Tampa in OT on Wednesday and Minnesota on Friday.

Carolina has been one of the best teams in the NHL over the last two months. CAR is 18-6-1 since the All-Star Break and could potentially end the NHL’s longest active playoff drought this spring.

Sebastian Aho – in his third NHL season – is having a career-year with 30 goals, 50 assists and 80 points. The former 2015 second round pick leads Carolina in goals and points and has truly emerged as the team’s superstar this season (has most points. by Hurricanes player since Eric Staal’s 82 in 2007-08).

Carolina has won four of their last five games, including two straight. They last played on Sunday, defeating the Canadiens 2-1 in OT. Rookie Andrei Svechnikov (who turns 19 today) scored the OT winner – his 20th goal of the season. The 2018 No. 2 overall pick has five goals in the last seven games.

If the playoffs started today, Washington and Carolina would meet in the first round of the playoffs.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals
Where: Capital One Arena
When: Tuesday, March 26, 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Hurricanes-Capitals stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINES

HURRICANES
Nino Niederreiter – Sebastian Aho – Justin Williams
Andrei Svechnikov – Jordan StaalTeuvo Teravainen
Micheal FerlandLucas WallmarkJordan Martinook
Brock McGinnGreg McKeggSaku Maenalanen

Jaccob SlavinDougie Hamilton
Brett PesceJustin Faulk
Calvin de HaanTrevor van Riemsdyk

Starting goalie: Petr Mrazek

CAPITALS
Alex OvechkinNicklas BackstromTom Wilson
Carl HagelinEvgeny KuznetsovT.J. Oshie
Jakub VranaLars EllerBrett Connolly
Andre BurakovskyNic DowdTravis Boyd

Dmitry OrlovMatt Niskanen
Christian DjoosJohn Carlson
Brooks OrpikNick Jensen

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

John Forslund (play-by-play) and AJ Mleczko (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Pre-game coverage starts at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Paul Burmeister alongside Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter.