Sports

Canes recall Nedeljkovic; Mrazek ‘day to day’ with lower-body injury

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour opened a media session Monday with what’s become routine during the playoffs: a review of the body count and injury updates, with a lengthening list.

The Canes earned a 2-1 victory Sunday over the New York Islanders for a 2-0 lead in the second-round series but lost three players in the process. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk was hurt on the first shift of the game, goalie Petr Mrazek left in the second period and forward Saku Maenalanen in the third. Mrazek’s departure with a lower-body injury brought in Curtis McElhinney, who had not played in three weeks but stopped all 17 shots he faced.

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New York Islanders’ Leo Komarov (47) shoots on Carolina Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek (34) in the second period during Game 2 of the second round Stanley Cup series on Sunday, April 28, 2019 a Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

That was on top of the Canes being without three of their most physical forwards: Jordan Martinook, Micheal Ferland and rookie Andrei Svechnikov.

“Petr is going to be day to day, so that’s actually good news,” Brind’Amour said.

The Canes on Monday recalled goalie Alex Nedeljkovic from the Charlotte Checkers, their AHL affiliate, to serve as McElhinney’s backup. They later called up defenseman Jake Bean.

Van Riemsdyk sustained a shoulder injury and could be sidelined indefinitely, if not for the rest of the playoffs. Maenalanen will not return in the Islanders series after suffering a hand injury, Brind’Amour said, but might come back should the Canes advance.

The Canes will hold a team practice -- a rarity the past few weeks -- on Tuesday, giving Brind’Amour and the staff a better gauge on Martinook, Ferland and Svechnikov, all said to be day to day. Brind’Amour, who rarely rests, was on the PNC Arena ice with Svechnikov on Monday.

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Carolina Hurricanes’ goalie Curtis McElhinney (35) takes the ice to replace injured Petr Mrazek (34) in the second period during Game 2 of the second round Stanley Cup series on Sunday, April 28, 2019 a Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

The manpower loss is having an effect on two fronts: the Canes and the Checkers. The Canes had recalled forwards Clark Bishop and Patrick Brown from the Checkers, at a time when Charlotte is preparing to begin a Calder Cup second-round playoff series on Friday against the Hershey Bears.

They now have brought in Nedeljkovic, who was named the AHL goaltender of the year. Nedeljkovic led the AHL in wins (34) and goals-against average (2.26) and is 3-1 in the Calder Cup playoffs with a 2.00 GAA and .923 save percentage. Nedeljkovic, 23, has been in two NHL games in his three pro seasons and was a winner in his first career start for the Canes this season.

That aside, the Canes have won their last four playoff games -- the last two against the Washington Capitals in their first-round series, then two against the Islanders at the Barclays Center. Game 3 against the Islanders is Wednesday as the series shifts to PNC Arena for two games.

The playoffs are grueling, a prolonged test of stamina and mental toughness, of overcoming injuries and finding ways to win.

“It’s a mental grind,” Brind’Amour said. “The physical stuff is what everybody talks about because you see it, guys getting dinged up, but it’s that mental grind that the playoffs really are all about.”

Asked Monday what the most satisfying aspect of the first nine playoff games has been, Brind’Amour said, “Just the compete level, the resiliency of our group. That’s been satisfying but it’s been that way all year so I don’t know that anything has really changed.

“Satisfied is really not the right word, because we’re not satisfied yet. We’re still in the process.”

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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