For Sekera, painful end to a good season

calexander@newsobserver.comApril 14, 2014 

Andrej Sekera was hurting.

The Canes defenseman, who recently underwent abdominal surgery, moved about gingerly Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, in some discomfort. It also pained him the Canes were ending the season against the Flyers without him in the lineup, sitting out the last six games.

Then there's the matter of the Canes missing the playoffs. That was pretty painful, too.

"It was a little bit of an up-and-down season," Sekera said. "We had good stretches and bad stretches. We'd win one game and we're high and we'd lose one game and we're too low.

"We didn't stay to the game plan sometimes that the coaches gave us. It's was more about consistency and execution and playing the system we know we are capable of playing. If we play it well, I think we can beat anybody."

Canes general manager Jim Rutherford said Monday that Sekera was injured for a chunk of the season.

"He's a true warrior, like an old-time player," Rutherford said. "There were some games where he was very sore and shouldn't have played but did play. He had a very good season for us."

Canes coach Kirk Muller often noted that Sekera, who played for Slovakia in the Sochi Olympics this year, may have been the Canes' most valuable player this season. Sekera was given an MVP award in voting by the Carolina chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.

"Always when you hear something like that you are happy, but I would give it up any time if I could go and play a playoff game, because that's what it's all about," Sekera said.

Sekera was the Canes' third-leading scorer with 44 points. His 11 goals and 33 assists were career highs for the NHL veteran, who was traded by the Buffalo Sabres to the Canes during the 2013 NHL draft in a deal that sent Jamie McBain to Buffalo.

Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who coached Sekera in Buffalo, said he wasn't that surprised by Sekera's increased offensive production, noting, "He went on some real good runs (in Buffalo). I remember one run of four games in a row he had two assists in every game and was putting up some numbers.

"He can skate with anybody in this league. He's one of the most powerful skaters I've been around for a defenseman. I've seen him catch the fastest guys in the league from behind. He can defend against any big body because he can skate with them. He can play big minutes and for me played against the Ovechkins and Nashes and was able to skate with them."

Sekera got his minutes with the Canes, leading them in average ice time per game at 23:40. He also was the leader in blocked shots (127).

"I had a different opportunity here and a different role here, obviously," Sekera said. "I just tried to take advantage of it and make the most of it.

"We would like to be in the playoffs, but this was a new start in my life, a new chapter, and I wanted to prove that I can play hockey and belong in this league. I just tried to play my game and help this team win as many games as I can."

Sekera spent nearly the entire season paired with Justin Faulk on the back end. They were the Canes' shutdown tandem -- the 27-year-old Slovak and the 22-year-old Minnesotan.

"He's a young guy with his age but not his hockey sense," Sekera said of Faulk, who was a member of the U.S. Olympic team. "As a hockey player he's very mature and definitely helped me a lot to be where I am. It's always about the five guys on the ice and the goalie, but I was happy to be on the ice all the time with him helping me to be the hockey player I am right now."

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