The Hurricanes enter their final two games of the regular season against a potential playoff opponent as division champions, having wrapped up the Central with Tampa Bay’s loss last night.
They still have plenty to play for, however, with a shot at the President’s Trophy, and obviously want to be playing at their best going into the playoffs next week. Rod Brind’Amour, Brady Skjei and Jesper Fast spoke to the media ahead of tonight’s game, here’s a full breakdown of everything they had to say.
On the possibility of players resting or if it’s full speed ahead: It’s probably full speed ahead. I think it’s a tough one. There’s one way to play. So if you’re in the lineup, you’ve got to go full speed ahead. Do you back off a little? We’re not playing for a week or so in the playoffs. It’s a tough question, but we’re going to go full speed ahead tonight and then re-evaluate.
On easing COVID restrictions: It could be really big, I think, just for the mindset of players, I think, more than anything. Just get some sort of normalcy. The playoffs are a grind, just like this season has been. So any type of getting your mind away from it by being around the guys, I think, will help. So we’ll see how that goes.
On a plan for using both goalies in these last two games: We have a plan. I think we’ve got to keep both guys sharp. We’re focused on tonight, so we’ve got [Alex Nedeljkovic] in net tonight, he’ll get his start and then we’ll re-evaluate where we go. But I don’t think we can really look too far ahead here. Let’s get through this game and see how things shake out.
On getting home ice throughout the playoffs: You try to emphasize it, I guess, as one more thing that’s still out there that why wouldn’t you? I think at the end of the day, we want to put our best foot forward, so you’ve got to play the game, you’ve got to do it right, so we’re not picking up, like I said before, some iffy habits going into the playoffs. There’s a good chance you’re probably playing the same opponent, maybe, so that’s a whole other dynamic. It’s an interesting couple games that we’re up against. I just think we’re focusing on tonight and then we’ll see how it goes.
On clinching the division and the celebration: Zero celebration. I was in my room, watched the game, great, I got a couple texts from people. It’s a great accomplishment because it showed all the work that’s gone in from everyone in this organization has paid off to this point. Everything we did, the work we’ve put in, check the box, it worked. But now there’s the next phase that everyone talks about that that’s what matters. So we’ve still got this little window right here to get through and that’s what we have to try to stay focused on.
On settling on one goalie for the playoffs vs. using two: I think if you have two that you feel really good about, or three, it can be done. I don’t know the schedule. I think it’d be different if it’s a normal kind of playoff schedule where the load isn’t quite the same. If they decide to do it how they did the regular season, which makes sense to me, we’ve done it all year, why wouldn’t you push the playoffs along, but we’ll see how that goes.
On Rod Brind’Amour: He’s so involved. He always wants the best for everyone, and it feels like he always puts in the right direction and gives us the right motivation, and really getting this group together. I’ve really enjoyed my time here.
On easing COVID restrictions: Of course it’s always better to be around each other and it’s going to be a lot easier to spend time with each other, so of course that’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to it.
On how tough it’s been with the restrictions all year: Of course it’s been a very different year, but we still see each other at the rink. But of course, being able to go to dinner and spend a little more quality time with each other is always going to be a good thing. So I’m looking forward to it.
On clinching the division: Of course, it just shows what a great accomplishment we have done so far this year. But at the end of the day, you want to be the last team standing and that’s what we’re focused on right now. So it’s going to hopefully be a good journey here when the playoffs start.
On home-ice advantage: Of course you always to play at home. I think if you look at our record this year, we had a really good record at home, so of course that’s an advantage for us. It’s a good thing we’ve been doing this good this year.
On Rod Brind’Amour’s coach of the year status: I would say he should be the front runner for that. He’s an unbelievable guy, first. He’s a guy you want to play for, a guy you want to win for. He treats everyone with respect. If I had a vote, I’d definitely pick him.
On easing COVID restrictions: It’ll be great. It’ll be nice for us to be able to go out for lunch or dinner and sit outside on a patio. We haven’t been able to do that for a while, so just to get that team bonding, that part of it, we’ve obviously been together the whole year and then in the hotel rooms together. But that’ll be awesome to get outside and get some fresh air.
On the approach in these final two games: Nothing changes. We’ve got to keep playing the way we’ve played all year. We want to ramp it up here these next two games to get us kicking on full cylinders starting game one. These are some important games, we’re ready to ramp it up and get going for the playoffs.