It’s finally time for the Central Division-champion Carolina Hurricanes to hit the ice in the Stanley Cup Playoffs Monday night, as the Canes will host the Nashville Predators in game one at 8 p.m.
The Canes, coming off an outstanding 36-12-8 regular season, will get their pursuit of the Stanley Cup started at home, making a playoff appearance for the third straight season after a nine-year postseason drought.
Head coach Rod Brind’Amour wouldn’t commit to a starting goaltender for game one, though rookie Alex Nedeljkovic was in the starter’s crease during morning skate. If it is Nedeljkovic that gets the nod, it’ll be the first playoff game of his NHL career.
Rod Brind'Amour on if Alex Nedeljkovic is the starter tonight: "He might be."— Andrew Schnittker (@aschnitt53) May 17, 2021
"We make that decision based on tons of stuff. If he starts, it's because he earned it."
In other on-ice news for the Hurricanes for Monday’s game, center Cedric Paquette will likely not play according to Brind’Amour. Defenseman Jaccob Slavin, who missed the regular season finale, will hopefully play, while Brock McGinn will make his return after missing the final 19 games of the season.
It’s a long road to the Stanley Cup for every team, but it starts with game one. The Hurricanes will embark on that journey tonight in front of a bigger crowd at PNC Arena than in the regular season, with an expected capacity between 10,000 and 12,000. It’s safe to say that the home rink will be loud for the Canes Monday night.
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With the goalie technically undecided, here’s how the Canes will likely hit the ice in game one (if Slavin plays):
Nino Niederreiter - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Warren Foegele - Vincent Trocheck - Martin Necas
Andrei Svechnikov - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Jordan Martinook - Steven Lorentz - Brock McGinn
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Jake Bean - Jani Hakanpaa
Injuries and Scratches: Cedric Paquette (lower body), Jake Gardiner (healthy), Morgan Geekie (healthy), Max McCormick (healthy), Roland McKeown (healthy), Joakim Ryan (healthy), Drew Shore (healthy)
The Nashville Predators got hot down the stretch to secure the Central Division’s fourth and final playoff spot, winning 20 of their final 28 games of the regular season.
The Predators finished the season with back-to-back wins over the Hurricanes, though Carolina wasn’t fully manned for those. Those two wins for Nashville came following six straight losses to the Hurricanes to open the season slate between the two.
Nashville has gotten healthy and are getting even healthier now, as Viktor Arvidsson will play Monday after missing the final five games of the season. Along with Arvidsson, leading scorers Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok are all healthy after missing at least a few games with injury this season.
Juuse Saros has been great in net for the Predators this season, winning a career-high 21 games even with the shortened season. He’ll be in the crease for Nashville.
Here’s how the Predators should line up in Raleigh Monday night:
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidssson
Calle Jarnkrok - Mikael Granlund - Luke Kunin
Tanner Jeannot - Erik Haula - Matt Duchene
Yakov Trenin - Colton Sissons - Mathieu Olivier
Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm - Alexandre Carrier
Ben Harpur - Matt Benning
Injuries and Scratches: Brad Richardson (healthy), Erik Gudbranson (healthy), Tyler Lewington (healthy), Rem Pitlick (), Nick Cousins (healthy), David Farrance (healthy), Rocco Grimaldi (healthy), Eeli Tolvanen (healthy), Jeremy Davies (healthy), Michael McCarron (healhty), Dante Fabbro (healthy)