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They Said It: Brind’Amour, Niederreiter, Hakanpaa Friday ahead of playoffs

Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour, winger Nino Niederreiter and defenseman Jani Hakanpaa spoke with members of the media via Zoom Friday following practice.

Nino Niederreiter skates at morning practice, Friday. May 14, 2021 in PNC Arena.
Kaydee Gawlik

With a playoff schedule now set and just three days away, the Carolina Hurricanes are bearing down on a first-round series against the Nashville Predators.

The Canes practiced Friday morning in PNC Arena, where they will host the first two games of the series next Monday and Wednesday. Following practice, head coach Rod Brind’Amour, winger Nino Niederreiter and defenseman Jani Hakanpaa spoke with reporters via Zoom.

Here is everything they had to say:

Rod Brind’Amour

On how you make sure special teams success carries into the postseason: Yeah, it’s obviously a huge part of the game. How do you carry it over? Well, you keep working on it and talking about it. We’ve had time to practice it this week, which is nice. We went a month without actually practicing it, so that showed. We were definitely not as good at the end of the year with it. So, more than anything it’s just getting the reps in.

On the divisional playoff format and playing the teams they’ve played so much: What it does is that everybody knows each other. You know exactly what everybody is doing system wise. You really don’t have any secrets. You try to tweak things here and there, but at the end of the day there is more familiarity with the team. That’s for sure in this kind of format.

On amping up practice vs. trying to give the guys some rest: It’s always tricky. We gave them a couple of days away from the rink, or away from the ice anyway. Like I said, we haven’t had any practices for about a month that I felt were real practices. This was the first time to kind of get some groove in there, a couple days here. I’m still trying to figure out what to do these next couple of days and how to approach it, but definitely good to get a couple good workouts in.

On Brett Pesce missing practice and on the status of Cedric Paquette and Jaccob Slavin: No updates on those other guys. Again, I’m just going to say that I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to lace them up. [Pesce] didn’t feel great the other day, so we’re just making sure we’re giving them every chance to be 100 percent by the time we get it going.

On Nashville getting healthy and on how they’ve improved: I think that’s the biggest key. We played them four of five times, and they weren’t their full lineup. You could tell there was a big difference when they were missing some of their guys. I think they figured it out when they got healthy. They kind of got their game going. I think they were a little bit all over the place, maybe because of the injuries and whatnot. Then all of a sudden the last month or month and a half, that was the team that everybody expected to see from the getgo. They’ve got a powerful lineup. There’s no weaknesses. And then when their goalies are playing as well as they are, that just amps up everything that they’re doing. It’s not great news for us that they’ve figured it out, but it’s going to be a challenge for us either way.

On a physical guy like Hakanpaa being built for the playoffs: Yeah, the game is going to ramp up physically for sure. They have a big team anyway. The more size that we can have, I think that doesn’t hurt you. No doubt about it. But the intensity is what picks up. You see more checks finished. You see heavier play in general. If you can have those guys in your group, that definitely helps.

On balancing getting guys to 100 percent while also getting them practice, and on if it helps with guys like Slavin and Pesce that they’re so experienced: It definitely hurts. There’s no question that you’d rather them be out there getting their reps and touches and feeling good about it. But at the end of the day you’d rather they be 100 percent than not. So, we’ll see how it all plays out, but that’s the way we’re approaching it.

On if he’s optimistic that Pesce and Slavin will be 100 percent: I don’t know if anybody is 100 percent. You hope that they definitely push that number forward.

Nino Niederreiter

On getting to play in a playoff series against friend Roman Josi: Yeah absolutely. At the end of the day it’s always fun playing against your friends, especially with that Nashville team. There’s a few players that have played there for awhile, and obviously Roman is a very good friend of mine. It’s going to be a fun series.

On what the team is trying to get out of practices right now: It’s all about preparation. It’s making sure we feel good about our game and getting ready for Nashville. We know how good of a club they are. We have to do whatever it takes to be ready for them.

On practice right now being like a mini training camp with a high pace: Yeah, absolutely. The way we played the last two games wasn’t the way we know how to play. It’s definitely something in our mind that we know we’ve got to be better, and we know we’ve got to work on the little details to be successful. That’s what we’ve been doing right now. We got some good practice in, and we’re getting ready for the first game.

On how much different heading into the playoffs feels this year as opposed to his first year with the Hurricanes with this team having playoff experience: I think experience is definitely key, but at the same time everybody is super excited to get into the playoffs. Whenever you’re in the playoffs, everything is possible. I think we can’t be just satisfied with being in. We want to make sure we have a good run, but it starts out from just game one. We’ll go from there.

On his personal goals heading into the playoffs: At the end of the day, the most important thing is obviously winning hockey games. I think that’s where everyone is on the same page. For me personally, it’s always to play the best hockey that I can play because that’s what we need from each and every guy to be successful in this playoffs.

Jani Hakanpaa

On how his experiences winning titles in Finland will help him in the NHL playoffs: I guess the basics are always the same. It’s going to be a battle, and every inch counts. Every play counts. Just bring that and try to battle hard and use those experiences to my advantage here going into my first ones over here. At least I know it’s going to be fun. It’s the best time of the year. What I’ve really learned is to enjoy it while it lasts. You never know when you’re going to get a chance to get back here. Just work hard and enjoy every second of it.

On if he’s been able to get to know the team a little bit off the ice since being traded: A little bit, yeah. The nice thing was that we had that long road trip right off the bat, almost. We had a little player’s lounge in the hotel, so I tried to spend a little bit of time there and talk to the guys and kind of get to know them. It’s a little different, for sure, than in a normal year where you can spend time with the other guys. I feel like they welcomed me nicely, and I feel like I know them well enough here to go in deep with these guys.

On if he’ll have butterflies Monday in his first NHL playoff game: Yeah, I would guess so. I think it’s always when you get into something new you have those little butterflies. I just try to use that to my advantage and use that energy on the ice in a positive way. It’s going to be fun.

On if he got a sense from this team that it was focused on winning a championship: I guess right when I got here you could tell that these guys are on a mission. Just the way they do things here and how detailed everything is, you can really sense that these guys are on a mission. I’m just trying to jump on the train with them and be a part of it and do my part. It’s been a nice ride, so far.

On if practices have been a little bit more amped up heading into the playoffs: I think so. It’s a little more amped up. Every team gets that little extra juice in it. It’s been good. I’ve had a good few practices here, and we’ve got a few more coming up.

On if his physical style of play is suited well for playoff hockey: Yeah, I do agree. I feel like this time of the year, everybody who plays this style of the game gets more of a spotlight and it’s more valuable than ever. I’m trying to bring that every night, every shift and help out the team in that regard and in my own way win those little inches all around the ice. That will hopefully turn around some series and all that. I do agree with you.