The long wait is nearly at an end. Tomorrow, for the first time since March 10, the Carolina Hurricanes will play a hockey game that counts. Without Dougie Hamilton, and hopefully with Martin Necas, the team will drop the puck for game one of its Stanley Cup Qualifier series with the New York Rangers Saturday at noon.
Head coach Rod Brind’Amour spoke to the media via Zoom Friday about the state of the team going into that game.
On Martin Necas and Dougie Hamilton: [Necas] looked really good today. He felt good, so we’ll see how that goes tomorrow, make sure he feels the same way and then we hope to see him in the lineup. Dougie is getting better, for sure, but he’s unfit, so he won’t be in there tomorrow.
On a starting goalie: We’re going to tell them tonight on that. So, I definitely have a plan but I don’t want to say it now and I haven’t told them. I envision that both guys will probably get action here with the amount of games and how short of a time frame there is between games. I think we’ll probably get both guys in there. I’m glad both guys look really good and feel good about their game. So I think we’re good either way.
On thoughts from the exhibition game: Obviously we had a lot of teaching stuff. That’s the one good thing about playing that game. The other good thing was to get the rust off individually. I think the guys felt better as the game went on, talking to them. You hope that now that’s not something we have to worry about. Overall, it wasn’t a great game, but I think it was a great game to get that stuff out of the way, and hopefully we’ll see a better product tomorrow.
On stopping the Rangers’ transition game: It’s any team in this league. If you’re creating offense off the rush, it’s going to be a long night for the other group. I think that’s why teams try to bottle everything up in the neutral zone and try to defend that, because you score on the rush or on the power play in this league. They have the high-end talent, we know that. Good transition game. Their back end’s good. I mean, this is a good team we’re playing. How do you stop it? We need to play with the puck. If we have the puck, that’s one way to do it. I think both teams are trying to do the same things, and it’s whoever gets to that game first that’s probably going to have the most success.
On preparation differences for a five-game series: I don’t know that there’s a difference in preparing. You always prepare to win every game that you play. I think the difference is that the stress level goes up if you don’t win that first one. The run way’s less to get back. But in the preparation aspect, I don’t think it’s different. Whether you win or lose the first game, I don’t think it’s going to change your preparation either. You’re always about winning that next game. Nothing’s really changed on that front.
On preparing for overtime: The overtime part, obviously, you don’t prepare for that too much. We know we don’t have shootouts anymore, and so you certainly take that element out of your practice and preparation. So I never really prepare for overtime. That’s the conditioning thing, so I guess you’re preparing a little bit if that ever gets to that point. The lay off is interesting, because you really are starting over, even though your systems might not be too much different from where you were. We were playing really well at the pause, but everything kind of goes out the window, because everyone came back in different spots and we have some new guys in the lineup now. So everything’s kind of different there and a little bit unknown.
On the possibility of Hamilton playing in this series: We would hope so. We’re certainly not going to rush him back, but if he’s close to being able to play he’s going to get in there. So we know the importance of having in the lineup. That’s a huge, huge loss for us. We want to get him back in there ASAP.
On who sits up front if Necas can play: As far as tomorrow up front, it really depends on if [Necas] can go. We’ve got two different ways we’re thinking about going, so we haven’t quite figured that out quite yet. We’re hoping he can play, for sure. If not, we know what the group’s going to look like, and if he goes in, we still have a couple little moves to make so we’re not sure.