After getting a much-needed off day Tuesday, the Canes practiced Wednesday ahead of a two-game stint with the Stars, the final two games of a six-game road trip. Martin Necas and Vincent Trocheck, who have both been sidelined with injuries, were on the ice Wednesday.
Head coach Rod Brind’Amour, forward Jordan Martinook and defenseman Dougie Hamilton spoke with members of the media via Zoom Wednesday following practice. Here is everything that they had to say:
On the availability of Martin Necas and Vincent Trocheck: That was a good sign. I’m hopeful for Trocheck for sure. [Necas] might be another day. At least we are getting closer with both of those guys.
On the importance of a day off Tuesday: This mental break is what we need. Physically, it’s tough with all the games. But just the grind here. Just even getting home, getting guys to see their families for a couple days. The schedule is weird. I don’t know how many games we’ve played now, but it feels like we’ve been on the road for all of them. I know we had a little stretch there at home. I think just getting off the road was nice, and hopefully we can get a little refreshed.
On how needed having a two-day break in between games was: You need it. This year we’re going to need a lot of it. Any time we can get a chance to take a breather, we need to do it. I think it’s more mentally. We ask a lot to get ready and focus and play, play, play. You need to be able to just forget about it for a day. That’s what we did yesterday.
On being involved in teaching and coaching faceoffs and how his success of winning faceoffs in his career helps that: Well, that’s something that when I was not the head coach I obviously focused on a lot. It’s important. I’m still involved in that, for sure. It’s something that I obviously have a pretty good knack for, so it makes sense for me to stay involved. So, that’s why I still stay involved in that. The other guys could do it. But if that’s something that is one of my specialities, I’m definitely going to stay involved in that.
On if faceoffs are more important for possession than other situations like a missed pass or dump: Not really necessarily, but it’s funny. We were one of the best faceoff teams for a long time, five or six years ago, and we weren’t a very good team. It’s kind of strange how that works. But to your point, if you really knuckle it down to special teams and areas like that. If you can win a faceoff on a power play for example, every power play starts with a faceoff.
If you can be proficient there, you’re getting an extra chance. Over 80 games, that has to pay out somewhere. Same thing on the penalty kill. If you can win one and knock it down, that’s 20 seconds. Over 80 games, that has to add up somewhere. It may not show up in that game, but I think over the long haul it shows up.
On if Carolina will be shorthanded again if Necas or Trocheck can’t go: Not to my knowledge. I think we’re good now to be able to play a full group.
On longtime Flyer Ron Hextall becoming Pittsburgh’s GM: That’s funny you say that. I actually texted him yesterday. It’s exactly what I texted him. I said ‘I’m going to have a hard time seeing you wearing a Pittsburgh emblem.’ I think in the management it’s a little different, maybe. A job is a job. You’ve got to do it. If he was in a jersey or something, it would take awhile to get used to. I think he’s been around now for so long that I don’t think it’s that big of a deal anymore.
On how the team has adjusted to the rhythm of the season and on getting two days here without a game: I think just from a rest aspect, that’s probably the main thing you take from it. Just playing every other day it seems like, it definitely wears on you. Getting that extra day, even though we practiced, getting the extra day gives you a little recharge.
It’s definitely nice. I think if you ask any guy in our room, especially after a loss like we had, you want to get back out there and play as quick as you can. It’s definitely nice to have the days, but we want to get back out there and get back on the winning side of it.
On Brock McGinn’s success: Brock’s probably one of my better friends on the team. I’m super happy for him to have the start that he’s had. We were joking, I don’t know if it was on the way home from Columbus or something, that he was going to do something, and I was like ‘I don’t think you should be changing anything. You’re feeling it right now. You’ve got to ride this wave as long as you can.’ It’s great to see Brock having a great start. Obviously it’s helped us. He needs to hopefully keep him going, and we need to support him a little bit.
On if the second game against the same team is harder than the first: No, I don’t think it is. It’s probably easier to play a back-to-back against the same team because you know their tendencies. If you’re playing a back-to-back against two different teams like usual, you’ve definitely got to wrap your head around a totally different system than you are usually playing against.
If you’re playing against the same team, you can almost turn your brain off the next morning, I guess, instead of having to watch video on another team. You kind of know what they are all about. You can just kind of prepare for it. I think it is almost kind of easier.
On if there’s a reason the better teams are even more dominant so far this season: Yeah, I don’t know. I feel like all the games have been pretty close. Even watching other divisions, the games are tight. I think everybody’s mindset to start the year was to get as many points as possible and try to get wins. I think that definitely puts an emphasis on each game.
You’re trying extra hard to get points on the board because there are things that can happen. You could have guys go out with COVID or injuries. It’s so short that if a guy gets hurt he could miss eight or 10 games in two weeks. If you’re healthy and you feel like your team is playing well, then you’ve just got to ride it as long as you can.
On playing wing instead of center and getting in on the forecheck more: Yeah. I’ve said it every time I get this question, I say the same thing. If you’re a center, you’ve just got to be a little more responsible and play, not more defensively, but you’ve just got to be a little more aware. I feel like the center is the guy on the line that kind of needs to read everything. As a winger you can kind of go and do your thing. You can be first on the forecheck and not really worry too much.
I feel as a center, I want to be good defensively. I always feel like I want to be the first guy back, so it’s a little tougher to get in on the forecheck. I think my game when I play center, especially this year, I’m feeling pretty confident with it. But obviously with the wing I know I can just kind of straight line, head down and go in and do my thing.
On if it’s more fun for him to play wing: I think you’re trapping me right now. Honestly, I could play defense, well maybe not goalie, but as long as I’m playing, I’m having fun. On the wing I get to, I guess, wind it up a little more. I feel like I can play physically and get in, and it’s fun. I don’t want to get trapped by you here if [Brind’Amour] watches this and goes ‘oh, you don’t want to play center.’
On having Tuesday off and on how he got away from the game a bit: It was alright. We’ve been playing lots of hockey lately. It’s definitely been a weird stretch with playing on the road and coming home for a day and then going back on the road. It’s just kind of nice to be home in your own bed for a little bit. Just hanging out, and back in practice today.
On if he was surprised with the penalty shot being called Tuesday night: I wasn’t sure. I’m not going to question the refs. I don’t know what the rules are. I don’t know if they’ve changed it. It was a fast play. I saw what was happening, and I was ready to chase as fast as I could to try to get back and see what would happen. He stumbled a bit. That’s their call with the read. I didn’t really look too much into it. It’s just unfortunate obviously that he scored, and we couldn’t score on our power play.
On if it stings more to have days off after a tough loss or on if it’s important to have them to reset things physically and mentally: It’s always like that. When you’re not playing great or losing, you want to go out the next day and play better and have a better taste in your mouth. But I think we’ve got a lot of hockey, so it’s good to have a day to reset. We’re going to be hungry to getting back to playing our game tomorrow.
On if he’s surprised with how well the team has played through the injuries and COVID pause: If you look at our record and everything, it’s pretty good. Obviously we know we can be better, so we definitely have to try to keep getting better. But we’ve got a pretty good record, I would say, so we have to remember that and remember to try to keep building on it.
On if the COVID fatigue the whole world is dealing with is the same for professional athletes: I would say it’s the same, except that we’re lucky enough that we get to work, travel, come to the rink and hang out with each other. I know it’s extremely hard for a lot of people, people that have to be at home working from home and not seeing people and all that stuff. It’s definitely very hard on mental health for everybody. Like I said, we’re very fortunate to be playing right now, travelling and all that stuff. It’s nice to be able to do that, so we’re definitely lucky.