Canes’ Svechnikov not going it alone as a rookie. Mom is always there

While Carolina Hurricanes fans were deliriously loud Sunday when Andrei Svechnikov’s overtime goal beat the Montreal Canadiens, no one at PNC Arena was more thrilled that Elena Svechnikova.

Call her one proud mom.

Elena has spent much of Andrei’s rookie season in the NHL living with him in Raleigh, offering the kind of support only a parent can give. Cooking, counseling, doing a lot of the little things, being a good listener. Being a mom.

“First of all, I’m here for moral support,” she said Sunday. “It’s needed. Eighteen years old is not as old as it seems.”

And now 19. Andrei Svenhnikov’s birthday was Tuesday, on the day the Canes were to face the Washington Capitals in a road game at Capital One Arena. The two teams play again Thursday in Raleigh in what again could be a charged, playoff-type atmosphere, with a lot of body-banging plays.

Which, in turn, should make for another uneasy night at PNC Arena for Elena Svechnikova.

“My blood pressure goes up the moment I get to the game,” she said. “You know, I must admit that I should enjoy it more than I actually do. I worry too much.”

Andrei Svechnikov can give as much as he takes on the ice. The Russian power forward has a lot of skill but also plays with an edge that can irritate opposing players such as veteran defenseman Jack Johnson of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who recently sent Svechnikov crashing into the boards with a hit from behind.

Svechnikov, much to his mother’s relief, hopped up and was OK as Johnson was sent to the penalty box. The Canes also won the game as they edged closer to their first Stanley Cup playoff appearance since 2009.

“It’s a scary thing,” Elena said. “All the time I watch and I’m scared if (and) when he gets hit or might get injured or hurt, but I also want him to benefit his team, make it better.”

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Carolina Hurricanes’ Andrei Svechnikov (37) trips over Dallas Stars’ Andrew Cogliano (17) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker) Karl B DeBlaker AP

Elena Svechnikova speaks only a few words of English. Her interview Sunday was in Russian and translated by Dmitry Manakhov, a correspondent for Sovetsky Sport who lives in the Triangle and covers the Hurricanes.

Elena has two NHL-playing sons, both first-round draft picks, and has spent time living with both in North America, in junior hockey and now the NHL. Evgeny Svechnikov, Andrei’s older brother, was the 19th overall pick in 2015 by the Detroit Red Wings but has played just 16 games for the Wings as he tries to establish himself at the NHL level.

Evgeny, 22, has sat out all of this season after a knee injury that required ACL surgery. It has been a tough go for the forward and Elena has traveled back and forth from Raleigh once a month to be with him as he rehabs the knee.

Things have been much smoother for Andrei, who the Canes made the No. 2 pick last year after defenseman Rasmus Dahlin of Sweden was taken first overall by the Buffalo Sabres. Svechnikov adapted quickly, has been in the Canes lineup since opening night and done all that first-year head coach Rod Brind’Amour has asked of him -- albeit with Brind’Amour remaining patient as Svechnikov made rookie mistakes and learned to play better away from the puck.

“We’re relying him a lot,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s playing big minutes. You can’t rely on a player if he’s not going to be responsible and he has been. He’s still learning every day. He’s going to be a really really good player in this league for a long time.”

Svechnikov’s first career overtime goal against the Canadiens was his 20th of the season, all scored at even strength. Playing on a line centered by Jordan Staal and with playmaking winger Teuvo Teravainen, Svechnikov has five goals in his last seven games.

“The year has been up and down,” Svechnikov said. “Some games I play good and some games not really good, but I try to stay focused and stay positive always. I think my year is not bad. Pretty good. Can be better, always. But that’s life and you just keep working hard and looking forward to the next game.”

Carolina Hurricanes’ Andrei Svechnikov (37), of Russia, jumps onto the boards while celebrating his game winning goal against the Montreal Canadiens with Justin Faulk (27) during overtime in an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, March 24, 2019. Carolina won 2-1. Gerry Broome AP

And the next post-game celebration at PNC Arena. In one memorable celly, Svechnikov was a human bowling ball and rolled into the net, delighting Elena, who said the much-discussed postgames are “spectacular.”

“Who’s the genius behind it?” she asked. “Who’s coming up with the ideas? Very cool.”

While veteran forward Jordan Martinook has been something of a mentor for Andrei Svecnhkov, helping him adjust to the demands of the NHL, Svechnikov has spent considerable time away from the rink with players such as Dougie Hamilton and Warren Foegele. They’re younger, single. Hamilton and Svechnikov, for example, attended an N.C. State basketball game at PNC Arena this season, blending into the student section.

Hamilton, 25, once was an NHL rookie from whom much was expected. Selected ninth overall by the Boston Bruins in 2011, he was in the Bruins lineup at 19.

“I went through the same thing,” Hamilton said. “You come in and it’s a totally different life here. You come from hanging out with guys who are your own age or younger and now suddenly you’re hanging out with guys who have wives and kids and stuff. You kind of need somebody there to help you through everything,

“It’s hard, too, for him with the language. Everything’s different. He’s done great so far and just is a really good person. Doesn’t say or do anything wrong. Just working so hard.”

When home, Svechnikov said he likes to use the down time to kick back watch movies. Eat mom’s cooking.

“Pasta and chicken. And borscht,” Elena said. And cookies. Apparently that’s Andrei’s go-to dessert although mom said he has a “sweet tooth.”

Elena said Andrei was a “clean freak” who kept his room orderly and neat, adding, “He likes when everything is in order.”

Svechnikov’s father, Igor, lives in Russia although he did make it to Raleigh for the team’s “Dads Trip.” And mom’s not leaving anytime soon. Elena said she would continue to live with Andrei, and make the trips to Detroit, again next season.

Asked what Canes fans should know about her son, something only a mom would know, Elena paused and smiled.

“He is very, very kind,” she said. “Yes, he is very responsible. I think that it is a good character trait. Both my kids’ responsibilities are off the chart. They even try to set me straight sometimes. He is very kind.”

In more than 30 years at The N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the N.C. State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina beats, and now is in his 11th season on the Carolina Hurricanes beat. Alexander, who has won numerous writing awards at the state and national level, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was a part of The N&O’s coverage of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run.