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Carolina Hurricanes vs. Columbus Blue Jackets: Lineups and Game Discussion

It’s been a busy news day for the Hurricanes, who wrap up their season series with Columbus tonight having taken points in six of seven games this season.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

There’s been a good bit of pregame news surrounding the Carolina Hurricanes today, so let’s run it down prior to the gameday information for tonight’s season finale against the Columbus Blue Jackets:

Makiniemi, Kochetkov signed to ELCs

With Alex Nedeljkovic now a lineup fixture in the NHL, the Hurricanes’ minor-league goalie cupboard was starting to get somewhat barren. The Hurricanes addressed this in part by signing Beck Warm to an NHL contract a couple of months ago, when it became obvious Nedeljkovic wasn’t returning to Chicago anytime soon, and today two other goaltenders joined the system.

Eetu Makiniemi, the Hurricanes’ fourth round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, and Pyotr Kochetkov, selected in the second round of the 2019 draft, both signed two-year ELCs today. Kochetkov, who was traded from Vityaz to Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod this season, put up good numbers following the trade, including a .932 save percentage in the playoffs. He was far from the problem in Torpedo’s sweep at the hands of Ak Bars Kazan where the offense completely died up for Torpedo, who scored just four goals in four games. Kochetkov also signed a one-year extension with Torpedo today, where he will start next season, and is likely on track to come to North America in the 2022 offseason.

Makiniemi, meanwhile, is likely to head across the Atlantic to begin next season following his first full season with Ilves in Liiga. While his numbers were better in limited work in 2019-20, Makiniemi was solid in his only year as a starter with Ilves, leading them to a playoff berth and a first-round loss to top-seeded Lukko. Makiniemi’s contract with Ilves ends this summer, so he seems ticketed for Chicago to begin next season, likely in a tandem with Warm.

Now, onto tonight’s game. Rod Brind’Amour said this morning that the only lineup change would be Cedric Paquette missing out through injury. That means no Jesper Fast, Jordan Martinook or Brock McGinn, and Drew Shore will draw back into the lineup to center the fourth line and take Paquette’s spot in the lineup. Nedeljkovic, now only two games away from having RFA status next season, will get the start tonight.

Sebastian Aho will center the top line, and while that isn’t necessarily news, it’s mentioned here because the NHL today named Aho the Central Division Star of the Month for April, after he posted more than a point per game and became one of only six players in the league to post 20 goals and 30 assists.

Here’s how the Hurricanes will look tonight:

Andrei Svechnikov - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Steven Lorentz - Vincent Trocheck - Martin Necas
Nino Niederreiter - Jordan Staal - Warren Foegele
Max McCormick - Drew Shore - Morgan Geekie

Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Jake Bean - Brett Pesce
Brady Skjei - Jani Hakanpaa

Alex Nedeljkovic
James Reimer

Injuries and Scratches: Jesper Fast (lower body), Brock McGinn (upper body), Jordan Martinook (lower body), Petr Mrazek (lower body)

Taxi squad: Jake Gardiner, Joakim Ryan

How ready are the Columbus Blue Jackets for this season to end? They actually waited to fly into Raleigh until this morning, a travel itinerary normally associated with the preseason, just to give themselves an additional night at home and not spent in a hotel room on the road left to their own thoughts about how this season has gone totally off the rails.

How bad has it been? Their shootout win over Detroit on Tuesday was their first win in ten games, and it’s been almost a month since they’ve won a game in regulation. Their last two-game winning streak was in March, when they swept the Hurricanes in a two-game series. They’re on pace to guarantee themselves a top-five place in the draft lottery, where they haven’t been since they took Pierre-Luc Dubois in 2016.

The man that Dubois was traded for earlier this season, Patrik Laine, will not have the opportunity to perform his usual wizardry agains the Hurricanes tonight. Laine is out due to illness, which opens the door for Emil Bemstrom to make his return to the lineup after missing 21 games with a lower-body injury.

Here’s how the Blue Jackets will look in their final road game of the season:

Eric Robinson - Max Domi - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Stefan Matteau - Jack Roslovic - Emil Bemstrom
Liam Foudy - Alexandre Texier - Cam Atkinson
Nathan Gerbe - Ryan MacInnis - Mikhail Grigorenko

Michael Del Zotto - Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov - Mikko Lehtonen
Gavin Bayreuther - Dean Kukan

Elvis Merzlikins
Matiss Kivlenieks

Injuries and Scratches: Patrik Laine (illness), Joonas Korpisalo (lower body), Zac Dalpe (new dad), Gustav Nyquist (IR shoulder), Zach Werenski (IR sports hernia), Boone Jenner (IR broken finger), Brandon Dubinsky (LTIR wrist), Kole Sherwood (healthy), Kevin Stenlund (healthy), Gabriel Carlsson (healthy), Scott Harrington (healthy), Andrew Peeke (healthy)

Taxi squad: Adam Clendening, Daniil Tarasov, Cam Johnson