Carolina Hurricanes

Canes’ Nestrasil plays well in front of family

The Carolina Hurricanes' Andrej Nestrasil (15) celebrates his goal during the third period of an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the PNC Arena on Feb. 12. The Penguins beat the Hurricanes 2-1 in a shootout. This weekend the Canes are celebrating the 10 year anniversary of winning the Stanley Cup in 2006.
The Carolina Hurricanes' Andrej Nestrasil (15) celebrates his goal during the third period of an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the PNC Arena on Feb. 12. The Penguins beat the Hurricanes 2-1 in a shootout. This weekend the Canes are celebrating the 10 year anniversary of winning the Stanley Cup in 2006. cseward@newsobserver.com

Andrej Nestrasil’s mother and grandmother have traveled from the Czech Republic to see him play in the NHL for the first time.

They were at the Carolina Hurricanes’ game Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, then Saturday against the New York Islanders. Nestrasil, in turn, scored a goal in each game for the Canes.

Two for two. Extra motivation, perhaps?

Nestrasil said Monday not to read too much into it. His goal against the Penguins, he said, came on a shot goalies often track down and stop. On Saturday, he said, linemate Joakim Nordstrom set him up for a score with a nice pass on a two-on-one rush.

“I may have put a little more pressure on myself, to make it a little more enjoyable for them,” he said. “But we’ve been elevating our game as a line and team, and I think that’s the major factor.”

Canes coach Bill Peters smiled Monday when told what Nestrasil had said.

“When are they going home, do you know?” he asked.

Told mother and grandmother were leaving Wednesday for Prague, Peters joked, “As of now. We’ll see about that. Wednesday, July 17.”

Andrej Nestrasil has seven goals and 10 assists in 31 games playing on a line with Jordan Staal and Joakim Nordstrom

As for Nestrasil’s opinion his goals were more a product of a perfectly positioned shot and good team play than having family in the building, Peters said, “I don’t buy it.”

“You know what it is? When you go on a ‘Dads Trip’ you’re going to play hard,” Peters said. “When your family is in town you’re going to play hard. When the place is sold out and rocking you’re going to play hard. That’s just human nature in any sport.

“So I think July 17 is the return ticket for the Nestrasil family.”

Much was made this past weekend, during the Canes’ 10-year celebration of winning the 2006 Stanley Cup, of how Nestrasil admired the late Josef Vasicek. The Czech center, a member of the 2006 team, died in the 2011 crash of the plane carrying Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, Vasicek’s Russian team in the KHL.

When Nesrtasil first came to the Canes in November 2014, claimed off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings, he initially thought of asking to wear No. 63, Vasicek’s old number, in his honor. He wasn’t sure how that would be perceived and instead took No. 15.

Nestrasil’s father came to the U.S. last season for a few games, but this was a first for his mother, who speaks a little English, and grandmother, who speaks no English.

Nesrasil said it has been quite an experience for his grandmother, Alena. She had to go through an airport security detector four times when she couldn’t understand instructions and later got a bit lost in the concourse at PNC Arena.

“My mom had to go look for her,” Nestrasil said, laughing.

Nestrasil’s play has improved since Peters put him on the line with center Jordan Staal and Nordstrom. They’ve formed the team’s best defensive line but also has been producing offensively as the Canes (25-21-10) have surged, going 17-8-6 since Dec. 3.

Nestrasil, 24, has seven goals and 10 assists in the 31 games. He scored twice Feb. 5 in the 5-3 road win over Winnipeg – his 100th NHL game – and now has four goals in the past four games.

“He has sneaky skill,” Peters said. “He’s got real good hands, skill and creativity.”

The Canes host the Jets on Tuesday and could have defenseman Justin Faulk back. Faulk missed the past two games with a lower-body injury but will go through the morning skate Tuesday, Peters said, and may be able to play.

Goalie Cam Ward, injured Saturday, is “more doubtful,” Peters said. Ward left the game with a lower-body injury but did get in some on-ice work Monday before practice.

Nestrasil said he had a nice Valentine’s Day lunch Sunday with his mother and grandmother. He said his grandmother became a little emotional, saying she s overjoyed her grandson was playing in the NHL and had found a hockey home with the Hurricanes.

Apparently, she wasn’t the only one blinking back a few tears.

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip

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