Klas Dahlbeck seemingly has been a forgotten man — out of the lineup, out of mind — for much of the Carolina Hurricanes’ season.
No longer. The defenseman has played the past four games, paired with Noah Hanifin, and given the Canes consistently solid play on the back end.
“Klas gives us a bigger, stronger guy, a physical guy,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “He’s got a little bite to him in the D-zone and we need as much of that as we can get.”
A year ago, Dahlbeck was a lineup fixture for the Arizona Coyotes, playing 71 games, settling in. He went into Arizona’s training camp before this season hoping to remain in the Coyotes plans but mindful they had drafted defenseman Jakob Chychrun with the 16th pick of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
On Oct. 10, a day before the NHL deadline for 23-man rosters, the Coyotes placed Dahlbeck on waivers, deciding Chychrun would stay. The 6-3, 207-pound Swede was claimed by the Hurricanes two days before their season opener against the Winnipeg Jets.
Dahlbeck, 25, had played with Canes forward Joakim Nordstrom, another Swede, when the two were in the Chicago Blackhawks organization. Other than that, everything was new.
“To get picked up off waivers like that, you don’t know how it will go,” Dahlbeck said. “I got here the day before the season was to begin and it’s a new system to learn and things like that. It takes a little while to get used to it when you’ve been practicing in another system for the whole training camp, then all of a sudden you’re going to change that before the first game.”
Dahlbeck played the opener, a 5-4 overtime loss to the Jets, and six of the first eight. He sat out three games, then played three, but after the Nov. 12 game against the Washington Capitals, a 5-1 Canes win, the sitting and waiting began.
Dahlbeck was a healthy scratch for 11 games as Matt Tennyson was paired with Hanifin. He was sent to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL for a conditioning stint, getting in six games, before being recalled Dec. 18.
Back in the lineup Dec. 30 against the Blackhawks, Dahlbeck then was a healthy extra the next 10 games as Ryan Murphy got a look.
“It has been a little bit different but you have to do whatever you can to stay ready,” Dahlbeck said.
Dahlbeck was back for the Jan. 21 road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets and now has played five of the past six as Tennyson and Murphy have been the healthy extras.
“He’s been a good soldier throughout,” Peters said. “All those guys have. We’ve got eight (defensemen), five we typically play every night and three looking at one spot. It’s good right now, competitive.”
Dahlbeck was a third-round draft pick by the Blackhawks in 2011 and made his NHL debut for Chicago in 2014. But when the Blackhawks made some moves before the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, they sent Dahlbeck and a first-round draft pick to Arizona for center Antoine Vermette, who helped them win the Cup.
Dahlbeck, who has a goal and two assists in 15 games, has a one-year, one-way contract that pays $750,000 and will be a restricted free agent after the season.
The Canes (24-20-7), who face the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, have won the three games since the NHL All-Star break. Dahlbeck has done his part, blocking three shots and getting in four hits Saturday in the 5-4 overtime win over the New York Islanders.
“Sitting out quite a while was a challenge,” he said. “The games are always going to be faster but I feel like we practice at a pretty good pace, so the adjustment hasn’t been too big. You’re always in battle situations that are not the same as in practice, but that’s the fun part of hockey.”
Hurricanes at Capitals
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where: Verizon Center, Washington.