Category 5: Hurricanes look to even series in Game 4

Injuries, the Finnish connection, awards, Petr Mrazek and more

The Hurricanes will need more magic from Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen to even their series with the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Chris O'Meara / AP Photo)

TAMPA, Fla. — The Hurricanes will look to even their best-of-seven series against the Lightning in Saturday’s Game 4 at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay. at 4 p.m.

Carolina, down 2-1 in the series, is already assured of another home date after winning Game 3 on Thursday, and puck drop for Tuesday’s Game 5 was announced as 6:30 p.m.

Category 1

Injuries are mounting for the Hurricanes. Nino Niederreiter hasn’t yet played in the team’s second-round series against the Lightning, and Vincent Trocheck was injured in Game 2 and did not play Thursday. Warren Foegele was also knocked out of the 3-2 overtime win with a shoulder injury.

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Trocheck and Foegele will be game-time decisions for Saturday’s Game 4.

“I think both of those guys will try tomorrow, and then we’ll see,” Brind’Amour said on Friday’s off day.

If neither can play, Max McCormick would likely be next up to be inserted into the lineup. Brind’Amour was asked if he’d consider playing 11 forwards and seven defensemen, but he seemed against that idea.

“It’s always a consideration,” Brind’Amour said. “I’m not a big fan of it. The seventh D really doesn’t play.”

Category 2

Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho connected for two goals in Thursday’s win, with Teravainen deftly redirecting a stretch pass to Aho for a breakaway in the second period and then setting up the shot that hit Jordan Staal for the power play winner in overtime.

The Hurricanes could certainly use more of that in this series.

“Those are the guys that have the ability to make those kinds of plays,” Brind’Amour said.

It’s been a particularly difficult season for Teravainen, who spent time in the COVID-19 protocol and then had a long absence due to a concussion.

“It’s been a tough, tough year for sure,” Teravainen said Friday. “But I just try to focus on the next game. I’m just enjoying [being] healthy right now and playing these big games with kind of a full house, fans out there. It’s actually crazy to think about it, that we can play real hockey again.”

Brind’Amour said the Hurricanes need everyone, including Teravainen, to be at their best to defeat Tampa Bay, but he was in no way surprised by the slick winger’s contributions Thursday, even the one-touch pass to Aho that gave Carolina its second goal of the game.

“Nothing amazes me with him,” Brind’Amour said. “You know, he’s as skilled as they get, and he sees the ice as well as anybody.”

One amazing thing: that assist was Teravainen’s first on an Aho goal in 30 games played together this season. He assisted on 18 of Aho’s goals last year. Did Teravainen know he had snapped the drought?

“Not really, but I guess I hadn’t really got a lot of apples this year anyway, a lot of games either. But I guess that’s good. Hopefully there’s more coming.”

Category 3

Jaccob Slavin was named a finalist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy on Saturday morning along with Toronto’s Auston Matthews and Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon.

Slavin had just two penalty minutes in 52 games this season, and that lone infraction was for a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass. He has been called for just 60 PIMs in 429 career regular season games, and Slavin has never been called for a penalty in 29 career postseason games.

Only three defensemen in league history have played 400-plus games and accumulated fewer than 100 penalty minutes. Bill Quackenbush had just 95 PIMs in 775 games during his 14-season career with the Red Wings and Bruins from 1942-56, and current Canucks defenseman Nate Schmidt has 88 PIMs in 450 games with Washington, Vegas and Vancouver.

Not only does Slavin avoid penalties, but he also personifies the idea of gentlemanly play. For example:

Slavin is the second Hurricanes player, along with Calder Trophy finalist Alex Nedeljkovic, to be named a finalist for an end-of-season award. The Frank J. Selke Award finalists will be announced Sunday, and Staal is certainly in contention for that award. The Selke is given to the league’s best defensive forward.

Staal has appeared on a Selke ballot in 12 of his 14 NHL seasons, including in each of the last five years. He was a finalist in 2009-10 with Pittsburgh, finishing third. Staal’s candidacy is carrying more momentum this season because of his offensive output — his 0.72 points per game average is second only to his output in 2011-12, his final season with the Penguins.

Staal added more offense Friday, joining Boston’s Brad Marchand as the only players with two overtime winners this postseason, and he said Friday he was hoping for more bounces to go his way.

“Obviously my left leg’s hot, and hopefully it’ll stay hot,” Staal said of the OT winner that deflected in off him.

The Selke has become an award about two-way play rather than strictly defensive acumen, and Staal’s offense has nearly caught up to his defense this year. Given that and the Hurricanes’ success on the ice, this might be Staal’s best chance to earn that elusive Selke.

Category 4

Petr Mrazek will be back in net for Game 4 after a show-stopping performance in Game 3 that saw him stop all 30 even-strength shots he faced and star in an end-of-regulation/early overtime penalty kill that helped Carolina survive and eventually win.

It was Mrazek’s first appearance of the postseason, but Brind’Amour didn’t think his goalie needed to have a chip on his shoulder to put on such a performance.

“When he gets in there, it’s most goalies, right? It’s them versus everybody else,” Brind’Amour said, “because that’s the one position that you’re part of the team, but you’re a little bit separate. You’ve got a different job than everybody else. And [Friday], obviously, he was huge for us. You have to be that way moving forward if we’re gonna beat these guys.”

While Mrazek and the Hurricanes were close to a must-win situation Thursday, the pressure might shift to Tampa Bay in Game 4 given that they returned home in firm control of the series and now face heading back to Raleigh on even ground.

Brind’Amour said there’s pressure on both sides.

“It wouldn’t even really matter what the stakes were, who was up, down,” he said Saturday morning. “Everyone’s focusing on one game. And there was always a lot of pressure to win that game. So, you know, I’d much rather be in their shoes, up 2-1 than down 2-1, you know what I mean? It’s just the facts.

“Pressure’s always going to be there no matter what. But both teams are just focused on the game.”

Brind’Amour did agree that the postseason makes for a roller coaster of emotions.

“It’s definitely real, I’ll tell you that,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s one play to the next, and there’s just so much of that going on. And that’s the key … just embrace it. You know what’s gonna happen in the game. There’s gonna be ups and downs and things happen for you and against you, and you just got to keep grinding it out and understanding that is part of it … and not let it affect you in a bad way.”

Category 5

There has been a lot of talk about a potential downtown arena for the Hurricanes in the future, and Tampa Bay’s Amalie Arena is a good example of one that works. But, for me, a big part of the PNC Arena experience is the atmosphere outside the building before games, with fans having cookouts, playing street hockey and corn hole, and music thumping from every corner of the parking lots.

The area around PNC has never really benefited from the arena being there as hoped, and a downtown site would help small businesses. But if the subdued scene outside Amalie Arena — and several other downtown buildings in the league — before game time would become the norm in Raleigh, maybe it’s best for the team and city to continue to embrace the fans’ unique-to-hockey traditions.