Following another high-energy day of practice, Rod Brind’Amour and the Hurricanes are moving along towards the NHL’s return to play.
There weren’t many changes from Monday’s practice, other than Martin Necas being out on the ice after being absent Monday (as a reminder, due to NHL protocol, the team can’t comment on the reason for his absence Monday). Brind’Amour spoke with the media via Zoom Tuesday about the first two days of practice and looking ahead to the playoffs.
On if there’s things that aren’t where he wants them to be: It’s too early for me on that. I haven’t pushed that, really. We haven’t pushed that, really. We kind of have a plan. We know we’re ramping up, and early on here it’s just about ‘Let’s knock off this,’ maybe it’s a system thing. … So until we cover the ground, then I’ll start going, ‘OK, now we’ve talked about all this, we should have this down if that makes sense. We’re not there yet. We haven’t covered all the ground, but once we get to that point, which will probably be two or three more days, that’s a better question.
On if chemistry will be most important in deciding which defensemen will play and if it’s possible to play seven defensemen: That’s a good point. That’s an option. This is one of the problems when you have so much time. You run through every scenario possible. We have some good options there. Chemistry is a huge component to it, who’s playing well with who. But at the end of the day, once we get through two and a half weeks, I’ve got to play the best guys. So whoever we think looks the best or feels the best is probably who we’re going to go with.
On Sami Vatanen: You look at the time when we got him, Dougie wasn’t in the mix. So essentially, it was ‘OK, here’s a guy to take his place.’ Dougie’s back, so now we’ve got to find somewhere else to put him. He’s a talented, talented player. He’s got to be in the mix. You’re talking power play, we’re certainly trying to find him a spot. That’s what he does; he’s good at it. But he hasn’t had any reps with us, and there’s a learning curve. We can’t wait five games to see if it’s going to work with him. So those are things that we’ve got to iron out now, for sure.
On if practice is more important now: For sure. Training camp is important because you want to get off to a good start, but you’ve got 80 games to catch up if you screw up for a couple weeks. Now, you’ve got zero time if you haven’t covered your bases and got everybody on the same page. The difference is, you never have two weeks of training camp playing or practicing. There’s always a couple practices and then you’re playing and you’ve got groups and 100 guys you’re working in. Now, we have our group. I think it’s better. We always want shorter training camps anyway, and more practice time, so I think this is actually really good.
On preparing for an empty arena: To me, I think the players all think it’ll be OK. ‘Yeah, we’ll be alright, we’re competitors.’ But I actually think that will be the biggest factor going is walking out into a building where you’re used to stepping onto the ice and getting juiced from the crowd and it’s not there. That’s going to take some time and adjustment, for sure. The good news is, both teams are in the exact same boat on that. So it’s not like it’s an advantage or disadvantage for anybody. That will be a huge adjustment.
The way I would describe it is, when you play, the crowd helps you anticipate. It helps you when there’s a chance, you hear the crowd, or you’re about to get hit, you can hear it. There’s little cues that the crowd actually gives you that actually help you in a game. That’s not going to be there. So guys are going to have to adjust. That’ll be very interesting to see which team does that the best.
We’re trying to up the ante on the communication part of things. Just making sure we’re talking a lot and keeping the energy up because it’s not going to be in the rink.
On if practicing in an empty NHL arena now can help: I didn’t think about that, but that’s probably a good point that I’m glad you threw that in my head. That’s exactly what you’re going to have, so the noise that you’re creating in practice, that’s it. That’s what you’re going to have in the game. So when we start ramping up to the scrimmage type practices that we’ll have, that’ll be something that we’ll have to throw in for sure, noticing and making a point of the noise level and emotion in the practices/
On if the team is picking up where it left off: I think we’re picking up. You’ve got these two weeks of practices and you plan them out. I think I erred on the guys not picking up, starting over almost. Now I’ve been in it two days and I realize I didn’t need to do it that way. The guys got it. They’re right where we were when we left off. That’s a good thing. The bad thing is there’s a couple guys that weren’t up to speed. We are reviewing, we probably didn’t need to review as much. But I still think with the time that we have, it’s the right play. That’s the way we’re going about it.
On if the qualifying round feels like the playoffs: You can call it whatever you want to call it, this is the playoffs. If you don’t win three of five, you’re done. Last time I checked, there’s no shootouts in these games. It’s the playoffs and we know that. I don’t care how they call it or whoever calls it. We’re treating it like that, for sure. You have to. There’s no other way to describe it. They can call it a play-in to get to the next round, but it’s the playoffs. They just expanded the playoffs, that’s all they did.
On Martin Necas: He’s in good shape. I think he’s had a little bit of a layoff and then the flight over. I didn’t expect him to look dynamite today, but he’s always that kind of flashy player, so I’m not worried about how he’s going to be in a couple weeks.
On depth: I hope we get a chance to see it. I hope we go long enough that we get to try different things. The team that wins this is going to have to have depth. I hope that’s something that when you look back on this you say ‘Oh man, we had a lot of depth and we found out.’ But if you want to win it, you’ve got to have it.
On line combinations: Honestly, it was either to just say ‘OK, where did we leave off, put that on the board and let’s start with that.’ I don’t think that’s going to stay the same throughout the whole two weeks. We’ll probably move things around. But I haven’t given a ton of thought of ‘This is how we’re going to start the playoffs.’ I think we’ll get to that in a few more days. I think it was just ‘This is how we ended, let’s just start that way.’
On a reset button for players like Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Dzingel: It’s a fresh start for everybody. I think that’s how they’re all approaching it. If the guys had a good season or a bad season to this point, it’s all forgotten. To me, it always has been. It’s always about that next game and the win the day philosophy around here. Anybody that’s had a bad stretch, they love hearing that, ‘Let’s focus on today and what’s ahead, not behind.’ I didn’t think Ryan had a bad year, he just had some bad luck this year. I think if we’re going to get to where we need to, he’s going to be a big part of it.
On energy level: It was great again today. To be honest, you almost feel like you wish we could play in about three days. I feel like the energy’s perfect right now, and I feel like this time next week, there’s going to be a lull at some point. I don’t think these guys have ever practiced this much without a game, or without something, ever. Two and a half weeks straight, it never happens. So that’ll be interesting to see, but we talk about it all the time. We’ve got a good young group that’s pushing each other. Ask me that again in three or four days and we’ll see where we’re at.”