Back-to-back at home are big games for Canes
Jordan Martinook didn’t know what to expect when he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in May by the Arizona Coyotes.
Playing on a line with Andrei Svechnikov and Lucas Wallmark? Those two weren’t even on his radar at the time.
But 18 games into the season, the line has consistently been together, even as Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour has tweaked others -- Wallmark at center with Martinook and Svechnikov on the wings. It’s a line with some speed, grit and moxie to it.
“It’s been pretty effective,” Brind’Amour said. “They’ve had so many opportunities and they really haven’t been rewarded for how well they’ve played. The chances they’ve created and the energy they play with, they’ve been great.”
For much of last season, Martinook said he was on a Coyotes line with Brad Richardson and often Nick Cousins. Richardson, then 32, was the oldest of the three, having played more than 600 NHL games.
Martinook, in a role reversal, is the “old guy” on his line -- at 26 -- and his dark “Movember” moustache underscores that point. Wallmark is 23 and Svechnikov a rookie in the NHL at 18. Both have a lot of Movember work to do to try and match their linemate’s Mo.
There was guesswork before the season as to where Svechnikov might best fit in the lineup. The No. 2 overall pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, the Russian forward has the size at 6-2 and 188 pounds to handle himself physically and has proven it against older NHL players eager to test him.
“I joke with him a couple times a week about ‘Are you sure you’re 18?’” Martinook said, smiling. “He’s so strong.”
Svechnikov and Martinook each have four goals and both easily could have more for the Canes (8-7-3), who host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. The same is true for Wallmark, whose only goal came in the third game of the season.
As Brind’Amour said, the scoring chances have been there for the line -- a lot more chances for than against. It’s a matter of finishing more of those chances.
Wallmark has no doubt Svechnikov, who scored 40 goals in 44 games last season for the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League, will soon start doing that.
“He’s strong with the puck and a skilled guy and has a heavy shot,” Wallmark said. “He’s going to be a superstar in this league.”
A superstar or a potential star? There is a difference.
“A superstar,” Wallmark said. “He’s that good. He’s young, he’s a big guy and he loves the game.”
Svechnikov went face-first into the glass in Monday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks after being hit from behind by defenseman Brent Seabrook. With Svechnikov down on the ice, Martinook quickly went after Seabrook, who was called for boarding. Svechnikov, shaking off the hit, was back up and got in on the scrum.
“I never saw (Seabrook) and it surprised me,” Svechnikov said. “But, as you saw, I was OK.”
Svechnikov left the game for medical evaluation but returned and was credited with an assist on Sebastian Aho’s overtime winner.
“When you get a guy with as much skill as ‘Svech’ it speaks for itself,” Martinook said. “And ‘Wally’ is probably one of the most underrated players on the team, just with what he does.”
Wallmark has won 54 percent of his draws, second to Jordan Staal on the Canes, and Brind’Amour now has him on a power-play unit. That’s trust from the head coach.
“He’s so responsible-minded defensively it just generates into what we do,” Martinook said. “He goes out and works hard. And even ‘Svech’ for being the skilled guy he is, he works hard. The three of us just go out and try to outwork other teams and it’s been successful.”
Wallmark came to Canes training camp in September not guaranteed a roster spot, having spent most of last season with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL. But an accident involving one of his best friends on the team changed things.
Victor Rask cut his hand while slicing sweet potatoes in his kitchen, underwent surgery Sept. 13 and has not played this season. He returned to practice Friday although not yet cleared for contact.
With Rask out indefinitely, Brind’Amour, in effect, swapped one Swedish center for another and has had Wallmark in the middle on the third line. Wallmark, in turn, has earned his ice time.
“When you have the chance you have to take it,” Wallmark said. “Hopefully ‘Rasky’ is back soon. It’s going to be fun when when he is.”
Brind’Amour might make a line change when Rask rejoins the lineup. Then again, it may not be the Wallmark line.