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Playoff beards show how much Canes’ Foegele, Svechnikov have grown

Hurricanes’ Foegele and Svechnikov, roommates on the road

Carolina Hurricanes' Warren Foegele and Andrei Svechnikov talk about their friendship and how they push each other to be better players
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Carolina Hurricanes' Warren Foegele and Andrei Svechnikov talk about their friendship and how they push each other to be better players

The last thing Warren Foegele and Andrei Svechnikov had in mind in September was how their playoff beards would look in May.

Foegele just wanted to make the Carolina Hurricanes roster out of training camp. Svechnikov was the No. 2 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft but was 18 and beginning his first NHL season. So much was unknown.

Turns out, Foegele’s beard has grown in quite nicely as the Canes have reached the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Bruins. As for Svechnikov’s ...

“My first time and I don’t like it,” Svechnikov said Saturday, fingering the scraggly growth on his chin.

The two have become fast friends during what has been a transformative season for the Canes, rooming on the road, hanging out together, becoming rink rats and usually the last two to leave the ice. It’s an interesting pair -- a kid from Canada and the teenager from Siberia, both forwards, both full of competitive fire.

“We’re both rookies and both kind of young, and it’s kind of easy to get along with someone who’s such a great person,” Foegele said. “What’s fun is we both want to get better, whether that’s shooting pucks, challenging each other, pushing each other. He wants to be the best he can be and I want to get better, too.”

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The two, who both have had good moments in the playoffs, want nothing more now than beating the Bruins on Sunday in Game 2 of the conference finals. That’s all that matters -- evening the series, moving a step closer to a Stanley Cup, their goal.

“I’m not going to shave, only after the Stanley Cup,” Svechnikov said.

Svechnikov again will be on Sebastian Aho’s line with Teuvo Teravainen, adding his youthful power to their skill and finesse.

“He took some big steps this year with his game and has been really good,” Aho said Saturday. “He plays a mature game.”

Svechnikov absorbed one of the biggest hits of Game 1 when he was blindsided in the third period by Sean Kuraly of the Bruins. No penalty was called but it was the kind of hit that was borderline dangerous, especially for someone like Svechnikov, who suffered a concussion in the third game of the playoffs during a fight with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.

“It’s all right,” Svechnikov said. “I didn’t see that guy. He just hit me from behind. It’s all right. It’s just hockey.

Greg McKegg addresses the media following the Hurricanes' 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in game 1 of their Stanley Cup playoffs series Thursday night, May 9, 2019.

“My back was sore for a few seconds and I couldn’t get up, and then I got up and it was all good.”

It’s the same kind of things Svechnikov said about the confrontation with Ovechkin. The two went at each other for a few games, it was a mano a mano test between Russians, the gloves finally were dropped and Ovechkin was the winner with a booming right hand.

“Just hockey,” Svechnikov said, more or less dismissing the fight.

CANESPRACT-SP-051119-RTW16.jpg
Carolina Hurricanes’ Warren Foegele (13) tries to score on goalie Petr Mrazek (34) during their practice on Saturday, May 11, 2019 at TD Garden in Boston as they prepare for Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

The important thing is that Svechnikov, who scored 20 goals in his first season, keeps getting up and going back at it, not backing down. He’ll do the same Sunday against the Bruins, who appeared to have the better of the physical play against the Canes in Game 1.

“They’re physical, fast, with a lot of skill,” Svechnikov said. “I expected it to be hard and it was hard.”

Svechnikov had a pair of goals in the opening game of the Caps series and added an assist in Game 2. Then, the fight in Game 3.

Svechnikov, who turned 19 on March 26, missed six games as he completed the concussion protocol, returning for Game 3 of the second-round series with the New York Islanders. He had a goal late in Game 4 as the Canes won 5-2 to finish off their sweep.

“He’s a huge part of our lineup,” Foegele said. “He’s an impact player. He’s going to be a star in this league.”

Against the Bruins, Svechnikov earned an assist in the first period as Aho scored on the power play. Svechnikov, from the left circle, spotted Aho open in front of the net and Aho deflected Svechnikov’s pass past goalie Tuukka Rask.

Foegele, 23, has had an impact, as well. The Markham, Ont. , native had four goals and two assists against the Caps, scoring twice in a 5-0 win in Game 3 that was the Canes’ first playoff victory since 2009. He had a goal and two assists against the Isles.

Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said the Canes’ younger players “don’t understand how big a stage this is, which is probably a good thing.” It is new -- the playoffs, playoff beards, NBC, the media crush.

What’s appealing is that while the pressure builds with each game, Foegele and Svechnikov still can have their fun and later laugh about it.

“Ask him about his magic tricks, his card tricks,” Foegele said. “I don’t know who he learned them from but he always shows me and then he tries to show some of the older guys.”

So about those card tricks, Andrei ...

“I know four, maybe five,” Svechnikov said. “Learned them on YouTube.”

Svechnikov also has a few hockey tricks he has tried to teach Foegele. And maybe the Bruins.

Hurricanes at Bruins

When: 3 p.m., Sunday

Where: TD Garden, Boston

TV: NBC

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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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