When the Hurricanes host the Tampa Bay Lightning in their home opener tonight, it’ll be the team’s first game at PNC Arena in nearly a year. And it’ll come a week later than planned, as Carolina saw its last four games postponed due to COVID issues.
The team won’t be playing in front of fans, and will be without Teuvo Teravainen, Warren Foegele, Jesper Fast, Jordan Martinook and Jaccob Slavin due to their placement on the NHL’s COVID protocol list. Still, the team knows it can’t make excuses and will need to shake the rust off quickly against the defending champs.
Rod Brind’Amour, Dougie Hamilton and Brock McGinn spoke to the media via Zoom following Tuesday’s morning skate, here’s a full breakdown of everything they had to say:
On the response of the team dealing with adversity: Well, we’ll see. So far, I think just the practices and the intensity, everybody’s brought their work hat, come to work and done their job. Obviously the game’s what counts. We’ll see how it plays out but I like what we’ve brought to this point.
On how hard it is to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions: I don’t think it’s the intensity or the will of players, any of that. Everything has to line up to win a cup once. You’ve got to have a good team, obviously. You’ve got to have great players and all that, but you have to be healthy. Everything has to line up. I know the year we came off after winning, we just got crushed with injuries and now we’re not the same team. So I think No. 1, you’ve got to stay healthy to win every cup but certainly to repeat. I think the hunger’s always there in these guys today. But definitely, the way this has played out, last year, that’s a long, mental grind. This year is going to be that too, so I think that’s going to take its toll too at some point.
On playing at PNC Arena: It feels like my job is the same regardless, wherever we are. I think the comfort factor is good just to be in your own home, maybe, not stuck in hotels, because that gets old. Not having a crowd is going to be interesting here, because we haven’t done that yet here. That’s a big deal for us. I know there’s a lot of energy we get off of it. I think that might be a little bit of an adjustment for our guys, not that we haven’t played in front of empty buildings. But at home you always get that little extra, so hopefully that’s not a big adjustment for us.
On Brock McGinn playing on the top line and guys stepping up: If that’s the line that we end up sticking with, I think you’re going to see a lot of guys that have opportunities, obviously. We have five guys out of the lineup. So you’re looking for a lot of guys to step up. I need everyone to just do a little bit more than maybe they’re normally used to doing. But every time someone goes down, somebody has to fill those shoes. So we have opportunities all over the place. The one thing about opportunity is it’s great but you’ve got to take advantage of it. But you need guys to step up.
On conditioning and the state of games across the league: I think early it was really good, really intense. I’ve seen both. There’s still some really great hockey, and then I’ve seen a couple of games that were probably a little off. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing I wouldn’t have seen in a regular year. I would see when you’re playing four and five games a week, that might catch up to everybody sooner or later, but to this point, I haven’t really noticed that.
On line juggling: I hope we don’t have to get to that, but everything’s kind of a little bit of a work in progress right now. We really don’t know how it’s going to shake out and how the matchups are going to work, who’s playing well with who. Everything’s kind of new right now, especially when you have so many guys out. It’s not normal. Normally it’s one or two guys and you keep a lot of things the same. Right now, everything’s different. Hopefully it’s not a long night for me in that part, but I’m obviously going to be cognizant of that.
On playing with Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov: It’s awesome. They’re just so highly-skilled and their work ethic is unbelievable. I think I’ve just got to go out there and try to play my game, get them the puck and get open. They’re going to make some high-end plays, I’ve just got to be there to support them.
On the players missing: I think that’s just going to be the motto of this year, it’s going to be the next man up. Everybody’s got to come in and play their game. I think some of the guys we’re missing, we’re going to lose some grit in our lineup. I think everybody else has to fill in for that, pull up their slack, and everybody’s got to chip in.
On Steven Lorentz: It’s always exciting. I think everybody growing up, their dream was to play in the NHL. So I think for it to happen tonight for Steven, I think it’s just an awesome experience, and I think we’ve just got to go out there, help him out and work for him. I think he’ll really enjoy it.
On the Lightning: I think obviously they won the Stanley Cup last year so it’s exciting, we had a little break here with our little COVID issue. But I think we came out and had a couple hard practices coming into this game, and I think we’ve just got to go out there and play our game, our system and not worry about who we’re playing. So I think we’ve just got to go out there and do that.
On the last few days and getting back to work: It’s a weird time, I think. We’re obviously thinking about the guys who are sick, and hopefully they’re all doing well. But it’s definitely weird to not be able to do anything, not be able to skate and have to work out at home, stuff like that. So it was good to get back on the ice the last couple days, get back into it. We’ve got to get going again with games. Hopefully we can come out and have a good start tonight.
On Steven Lorentz’s NHL debut: It’s exciting no matter what. I think it’s your dream as a kid to play in the NHL, so I’m sure he’s very excited right now. Like you said, it’s a little bit different this year with no fans. He won’t have his family there or whatever, but I’m sure he’s just as excited. I think it will be his dream come true, so hopefully he can have some fun tonight.
On his biggest concerns about getting back in action: I don’t know if there’s concerns. You’re just trying to get back to getting a feel. It may be a little bit harder for us just starting to get into a rhythm, into a groove, playing three games and then for whatever we’ve been off now. We’ve got to get back into that, get that feel back. There’s plays you can’t replicate in practice in a game, so just trying to get those feel plays back and get into a little bit of a rhythm. We know we’ve got a lot of games coming up so we’ll definitely get into that, we’ve just got to try to get into it as quick as we can.
On playing with Brady Skjei instead of Jaccob Slavin: It’s been good. Obviously we’re going to miss Slavin and the other guys tonight, but you’ve just got to do your best with whatever we’ve got in the lineup, and Brady’s obviously a really, really good defenseman. So I’m sure where we’re not quite used to where each other are going to be, but I think we’ll be alright.
On playing at PNC Arena: I think it’s really nice to be here. Like you said, it’s been a long time, I think over a year for me. We’ve had a couple practices here, but it’s definitely really nice to be here and it’s obviously a little different. We don’t have our normal meal and stuff like that, but it’s definitely nice to go out there and have that feel pregame skate. It’ll be fun tonight to be there and we’ll definitely miss the fans though.