The Hurricanes will look to make it a season-high seven wins in a row when they take on the Nashville Predators tonight, but they’ll have to do it without leading scorer Vincent Trocheck.
Jaccob Slavin will play his 400th career NHL game in this one. Slavin, Jordan Martinook and Rod Brind’Amour spoke to the media following Thursday’s morning skate. Here’s a full breakdown of everything they had to say:
On Jaccob Slavin and how he’s grown: He’s grown in every way, I think just as a person and obviously as a player. I think his game is solid, it’s two-way. It was always good, but I think he keeps getting better and better. You can’t say enough good things about him as a person. I think that’s more important for me. He’s a sound, sound individual.
On Vincent Trocheck: He’s out for tonight. We could probably reevaluate here in the next couple days, but he’s definitely not playing tonight, so that’s a big blow.
On storm surges for front-line workers: “We talked about the best way to celebrate some of the people that have done so much for this community, really. I think players decided that was the best way to do it. I think it’s great. Can’t say enough about these people, front-line emergency workers and everyone that’s helping out now. You see people at PNC every day donating their time and efforts to get people vaccinated. It’s going on every day behind the scenes, and that’s really special.”
On scoring from defensemen: It’s the most important part of it. You’re a five-man attack. If you’ve only got three guys in the attack, it’s going to be tough. So we encourage it now. The league encourages it. Everyone coaches it that way. Most teams have D that are very active, and I think that’s where it’s getting coached differently the last few years now, where it’s just go on the defensive end, and you’re always looking to jump in the rush and create offense from your backend too, because it’s hard to score in general, so you’ve got to have five pieces in the attack.
On facing the same teams over and over: The preparing is no different than if you didn’t play the same teams. You look at their games, so their game happens to be their last game against you. So it’s a little easier in some respects, but also harder because you’ve got to make little adjustments and change some things. You don’t want to be too predictable. I think having some randomness to your game is good, so you kind of tweak things here and there. I don’t really think it’s different than if you played a normal schedule, different teams. You prepare the same way, you’ve got to get your team to play your game. That’s the most important thing.
On Teuvo Teravainen: We don’t really know, he can skate and do some things. I think we’re still kind of monitoring that. He’s obviously not playing tonight, and I’m not sure he’s anytime soon either. So the morning skates aren’t very vigorous, so you can get away with more things than a real practice.
On the shutdown a year ago: It’s crazy. It seems like the year took forever but also flew by at the same time. Obviously there was a lot of quality time with the family, so that was nice, but in terms of the hockey world and just going into a playoff bubble, to where we’re at now with being able to have fans in the building, it’s exciting. Having the Caniacs back at PNC’s always awesome, and then just being able to kind of get back to a normal life just with hockey every day. Just somewhat of a normal schedule even though it’s kind of crazy playing every other day, but that is what it is. It’s good to be back, and it’s definitely been a long year.
On what he’s learned in his career: Just to continue to take it a game at a time. You’re playing against the best players in the world every night, so you’ve got to come prepared. You can’t take a night off. Just to enjoy it. It’s awesome to look back and see, one how God’s kept me safe over these past 400 games, but also just to see just how much has changed in the past going on six years now both from a hockey standpoint and from a family standpoint, it’s really cool to look back on.
On how the pandemic has changed him: It’s sad to look and see how many lives it has affected all around the world. Just from a family standpoint, we don’t want to take for granted the time we’re given, but we also want to make the most of it and be able to help out with the resources that God has given my family. We want to try and make a difference for the better for people around the world who are struggling, and just with everything that’s been going on, it’s been a crazy year, but just trying to be a light and shine the light that God has given us to shine.
On scoring from the defense: I think that’s the game in the NHL right now. You active defensemen all over the ice, and so from our standpoint, we’ve just got some guys that are a little bit snake bit, but I think those goals will come. Thankfully, I was talking to my Dad about this the other day actually, our forwards are scoring goals. That’s been a huge part to our success, and so as long as they continue to score goals, we’ll be fine, and I think the goals from the defensemen will start to come. But our game is putting pucks to the net, letting our forwards go to work down low and the dmen jump when they can. So I think those goals will come, but I think we just need to continue to do what we’re doing. We’re not letting the other team score first as defensemen, and then I think the offense is going to come.
On playing against the same teams: Pros, I feel like you kind of know what to expect. We’ve played Nashville, this is our fourth or fifth time this year. So I think we kind of know the type of game they want to play. It just sets up for the type of game we want to play. It’s definitely, I think, on the road, we’ve talked about it’s nice being able to stay in a city or your’re not traveling as much, so that aspect is nice. But just the familiarity with the way teams play. Cons, I don’t know. I don’t know if there are really is a con. I guess you can get some more rivalries, have more intense games, but I don’t know if you’d actually call that a con or not. That’s it.
On the COVID shutdown a year ago and how the pandemic has changed him: I didn’t think I took it seriously enough. When we were flying back, it was kind of like, ‘OK, we’re going to maybe shut down for a week, and then we’ll be back at it. That’ll be it.’ Obviously that definitely was not the case. It was kind of unexpected. It all happened so fast. I think we heard rumblings about it maybe three, four days before, then it was just like ‘Bang, you’re stopping.’
How it changed me, I’d say probably more family time. We didn’t play hockey for three and a half months after we stopped, and then after the bubble it was probably another four and a half. So there was a ton of time spent with family, just changing up your routine. By the end of the second break, I was going a little stir crazy. I’m not used to it. I’ve never been home in November, just doing nothing, but you know what I mean. It was hard for a lot of people, and it was hard on me too, but you can definitely find positives to take from it.
On having fans: The fans are the backbone of any professional sports league. Playing without them, it was definitely hard. You missed the energy. When they’re not there, it’s just kind of flat. You can try and build your own, but just hearing cheers again is so nice. Seeing people again, obviously we see everyone around here, but seeing joy in people’s faces. I missed having them, and I think everybody did. They bring what’s good to the game and they’re what’s important.
On storm surges for front-line workers: We were trying to figure out if we were even going to do the surge this year with limited capacity. I think the surge is amazing when the whole rink stays, and everybody’s standing. But once we figured out ‘OK, we’re going to continue it,’ we just kind of thought that with all the games we’re playing, it’s going to be tough to be thinking of stuff. I think when we created them or when we thought of them was we were sitting together eating a pregame meal and we’d just throw ideas out there. We don’t have that opportunity anymore. So everybody was a little worried about how we could come to our creations.
This was a way that we could still interact with the fans but then give back to the people that have done so much in this past year, that have kept the world going. So to be able to honor those people and especially local nurses and doctors in the Triangle community is something that we were really on board and really happy to do.
On his pregame rituals with Andrei Svechnikov: I guess the first year I had something different. Last year, I did something different. This year is similar to last year’s. It’s just when Svech came in, he was an 18-year-old kid, and hadn’t played in the NHL before. His first few games he was nervous. The original start behind it was just to keep Svech loose. I think that was the main reason I started it, and then obviously it’s kind of blown up and I don’t know if I could ever stop now. It’s just something I did to keep Svech loose. I think he almost keeps everybody else loose now. It’s cool to see how even in two and a half years, he’s turned into the guy who keeps everybody loose. If you see any of the videos before the game, he’s the guy that’s hooping it up and laughing. I just love to see that.