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Saarela is ‘next man up’ as Canes deal with injuries

Canes’ Brind’Amour updates the injury situation heading into Game 5

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour reviews the injury situation and looks to Game 5 of the playoff series against the Washington Capitals at a media availability April 19, 2019.
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Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour reviews the injury situation and looks to Game 5 of the playoff series against the Washington Capitals at a media availability April 19, 2019.

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour has often mentioned the “next man up” mentality his team has taken in the playoff series against the Washington Capitals.

For the Canes, the next man up now is forward Aleksi Saarela.

Saarela became the latest recall for the Canes on Friday as they deal with injuries to forwards Andrei Svechnikov, Jordan Martinook and Micheal Ferland. Saarela was called up from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL on an emergency basis as the Canes returned defenseman Jake Bean to the Checkers.

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Carolina Hurricanes’ Jordan Martinook (48) goes down in front of Washington Capitals’ goalie Braden Holtby (70) after injuring himself during the first period in game four of the first round Stanley Cup series game on Thursday, April 18, 2019 at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

The Canes outlasted the Caps 2-1 on Thursday in Game 4 to even the best-of-seven series 2-2, winning both games at PNC Arena. But it’s back to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday, and Brind’Amour indicated all three injured forwards were questionable for the game.

Svechnikov was placed in the concussion protocol after his fight with the Caps’ Alex Ovechkin in Game 3. Ferland also left that game with an upper-body injury and Martinook suffered a lower-body injury in the first period of Thursday’s game.

Brind’Amour said he doubted Svechnikov, who did some skating on his own Thursday, would be able to play Saturday. Martinook was “pretty banged up,” Brind’Amour said, and there was no further update on Ferland.

Carolina Hurricanes forward Teuvo Teravainen discusses his game-winning goal in Game 4 against the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup playoffs after the Canes' 2-1 win on April 18, 2019.

While the Canes did not hold a team practice Friday, Brind’Amour said the injured players would be skating at Raleigh Center Ice before the flight to Washington.

Saarela, 22, has scored 30 goals for the Checkers this season and has 54 points in 69 games. His call-up comes with the Checkers set to begin their Calder Cup playoffs series against the Providence Bruins.

Saarela, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound winger from Helsinki, Finland, tied for the AHL lead this season with nine game-winning goals.

While the physical series has seen three Canes forwards leave games, the Caps will be without one of their top forwards, T.J. Oshie, for an indefinite period of time. Oshie left Thursday’s game in the third period with an upper-body injury after being hit by the Canes’ Warren Foegele and falling into the boards.

Rod Brind'Amour addresses the media following the Hurricanes' win in game four of their Stanley Cup playoff series against the Washington Capitals

The play and the injury did not sit well with the Caps players or their coach Todd Reirden, who called it “an extremely dangerous play.” Oshie was a key contributor on the Caps’ 2018 Stanley Cup run.

“He’s a heart-and-soul guy,” Caps goalie Braden Holtby said. “He’s a leader and he’s a guy that guys want to fight for.”

The Canes rallied behind Svechnikov’s injury, physically and emotionally, and the Caps could do the same with Oshie out. Capital One Arena in Washington could present a charged atmosphere for Game 5.

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Carolina Hurricanes’ Brett Pesce (22) defends Washington Capitals’ T.J. Oshie (77) during the second period in game four of the first round Stanley Cup series game on Thursday, April 18, 2019 at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

“Playing at home always has that effect and obviously now that the series is kind of a series I certainly expect it to be that way,” Brind’Amour said.

In reviewing the Oshie injury, Brind’Amour said there was no “ill intent” by Foegele on the play.

“He was trying to back check, trying to lift his stick and gave him a little nudge,” Brind’Amour said. “The guy got off balance, that’s the unfortunate part.”

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Washington Capital’s Travis Boyd (72) crashes into the board below the Carolina Hurricanes’ bench during the third period in game four of the first round Stanley Cup series game on Thursday, April 18, 2019 at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

Told that Ovechkin called it a “dirty play,” Brind’Amour said, “I’m not getting involved with that. If we to do that we’ll show all the hits that have gone on that are actually malicious. I mean, come on. We don’t play that game.”

Canes general manager Don Waddell said Friday there would be no disciplinary action taken by the league.

The Canes did get one injured player back in the lineup Thursday -- veteran defenseman Calvin de Haan, who had been sidelined with an upper-body issue. De Haan’s return led to Bean being reassigned to the Checkers.

Check out photos from the action as the Carolina Hurricanes battle the Washington Capitals in Game 4 of their NHL playoff series Thursday night, April 18, 2019.

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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.


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