The Carolina Hurricanes finished off their five-game homestand with an overall record of 3-1-1, picking themselves up seven out of a possible ten points in the standings.
They’ll now hit the road for five games, two against Tampa Bay, two against Florida and one swing through Nashville, before returning home March 4.
The Canes got in one last practice before they left for Florida and head coach Rod Brind’Amour along with Brett Pesce and Steven Lorentz spoke to the media via Zoom following Tuesday’s practice.
On an update on Teuvo Teravainen: He’s not coming [on the trip to Florida]. He’s got a concussion. They’ve come and told me that now. He’s out.
On an update on Petr Mrazek: Until he puts a stick in his hand, he’s not really there yet. Looks good on everything else, but he’s still a ways away apparently. Once he puts the stick in there and starts going full tilt, then I think we can start getting excited that he might be back.
On if the team is itching to get Mrazek back: We want all of our top guys back. To be the team we hope to be, we need everyone healthy. He’s a big part of that. Goaltending is one of those things we always talk about that’s so important. I think our goalies have been good this year, it’s just that we’ve given up probably a little bit more than we’d like to. Petr getting back in there, hopefully will just add to the goaltending assets that we have. We have two, and then we’d have three, guys that we can count on and he’s at the top of that list.
On Morgan Geekie’s hot stint in the AHL: That’s what you want. He had to play. That’s the reason you put him down, because you can’t just sit on the taxi squad all year. You want to get these guys playing. To go down there and have the right attitude and prove you don’t want to play down there and that you belong at another level, that’s what he did.
On his relationship with the Chicago Wolves: I’m probably not as in tune as I’d probably like to be, because normally you don’t have a couple of extra guys here. You’d be calling down there like, ‘Okay, who’s next?’ or ‘Who’s playing well?’ but I got the next guys up that are here, so it’s a little different. But they’re having a good year. They should be having a good year. We’ve got our top guys down there and we’ve got someone else’s farm team’s top guys. They should be doing well, but it’s nice to see that they’re off to a good start.
On Jake Bean: The first thing that stands out to me, is just his poise with the puck. He’s not afraid to make a play. Seeing him move on the blueline, it takes a lot of confidence and obviously a lot of skill to do. It’s huge. He’s got tons of talent. I think guys are just starting to realize it now and it’s just another great addition to our team.
On if the condensed schedule is more of a physical or mental grind: I think it’s honestly more mental. Physically, in any season, you’re going to be tired eventually, but just knowing you’ve got to get up for games every other day, plus back-to-backs all the time, it’s definitely mentally challenging, but everyone’s going through it, so it evens the playing ground. It is what it is.
On why the team is scoring so many goals: We just have so much talent up front and on the backend. I don’t really think we have a weakness in our team and the guys up front are playing with tons of confidence and obviously, when you have confidence, you’re going to make plays and you’re going to score goals.
On his shot’s improvements: I worked on it this summer. It feels pretty good. I just kind of took all summer and worked on it. I took some skating lessons too to try and get a little faster. Seems like it’s paying off a little bit.
On if he feels like he’s going at another gear: I kind of just feel like I’m playing like I usually try to do. Just defense first and trying to be a steady presence back there for the guys. Nothing’s really changed much.
On what he’s learned from the other centers on the team: There’s things that you can take away from each guy. You’ve got some size up the middle with [Staal] and you’ve got some skill with Trocheck and Aho. I just try to watch what they do at practice. Obviously they do some stuff with their hands and the puck that I can only dream of doing, but I can take away little positional plays. I’m just trying to watch them and see how they think the game. If there’s anything that I can take away from the practices and the games that I can apply to myself, then that’s a benefit to me. I’m still young and learning and trying to figure out the center position in the NHL. It’s a whole different ball game than playing in the minors and juniors. Guys are a lot more responsible and the checking’s a lot tighter, but I think so far, I’ve adjusted well and I’m just getting more and more comfortable each game. I’m happy to keep learning and I’m excited to keep going.
On what he’s learned about NHL competition: First and foremost, what gave me a little bit of confidence is knowing I can think the game here. When I first got here and I played in those first few games, I was a little bit nervous. Not knowing how the checking was going to be, because I know here, it’s a game of mistakes. If you slip up and lose your man, the puck can be in the back of your net just like that. I just really learned that as long as I try to stay calm and don’t throw pucks away, that I can be a good center and good player in this league. I’m just trying to gain confidence with each game and the guys have been so great. Giving me little pointers here and there that I wouldn’t have even thought of going back just a few weeks. The more games I play and the more minutes I get, it just gives me more confidence knowing that I can contribute. Little things like being on the right side of the puck and stick placement in battles along the wall. It’s been great so far.
On his living conditions and day-to-day: It’s been a bit different. The weather is starting to get a little bit nicer. It was a nice day out today, so it’s hard to sit in your apartment and not go outside and do some activities. I’m kind of a restless guy. I like getting out. Even just rollerblading or going out on walks. I guess I can do stuff like that at the apartment I’m in, but you can’t go to stores and you kind of have to be cautious when you’re out getting groceries and stuff. Even life on the road, you’re kind of restricted to staying in your hotel room. But at the end of the day, it means staying apart from the guys to keep COVID just out of the locker room and for the sake of guys health. The last thing we would want is to lose another four to five guys just because one guy went out for dinner or something like that. It’s cliché, but wear a mask and wash your hands, it’s just so easy to do. If you’re avoiding others, you can go for those walks around and stuff like that as long as you’re being smart about it.
On what he’s learned playing against a team like Tampa: It’s been said so many times already, but they’re the championship team. They’re the team to beat and arguably one of the best teams in the world. What I take away from games like that is things that maybe common fans don’t really see. It’s the consistency of the forechecking and the consistency of sticking to their game. Roddy told us that after the first game, that their head coach said something about how they had got away from their game. I guess we kind of forced that, because we were just relentless and in their face. They’re a team that knows how to win though, so they realized that they got off their game a little bit and that’s not how they’re going to be successful. When you watch a team that’s consistent and that buys into their systems really well, like Tampa Bay does, they obviously have success with that and you could see it last night. They were just skating well, consistent on their forechecking and they were tight defensively. We did a good job pushing back at times, but they were a good team last night. It was a different team than we saw the first night.
On how Tampa plays once they have the lead: They’re not a team that just sits back and defends a lead. You can’t do that. They still had two guys in on the forecheck to grind. They had a good F3, a good high guy, that plays up and makes sure there were no odd-rushes going the other way, just in case, but they still did a good job sending guys in on the forecheck and not sitting back on their heels. The worst way you can defend a lead is by taking your foot off the gas and playing a little more defensive. That’s how other teams start to get momentum and get a little bit more aggressive and that’s how breakdowns happen. They did a good job staying in on the forecheck, staying aggressive, keeping pucks in our end and making good plays.