RALEIGH — Rod Brind’Amour has a pretty simple philosophy on goaltending. So when he was asked Wednesday if the language barrier between him and rookie goalie Pyotr Kochetkov would pose any problems, Brind’Amour said the 22-year-old Russian only needs to understand three words.
“Stop. The. Puck.”
Brind’Amour has always taken a laissez faire approach to the Carolina crease, leaving the bulk of the oversight to his goalie coach.
His current one, Paul Schonfelder, has liked what he’s seen from Kochetkov.
“I watch all his games in the American League,” Schonfelder said of the 15 games Kochetkov has played with the Chicago Wolves since coming over from his KHL team in Russia. “He’s been real good down there. Just dynamic: big kid, covers a lot of net, can move quick east-west, good hands.”
Schonfelder hasn’t been able to work one-on-one with Kochetkov since the team last held a development camp pre-pandemic, but there’s one attribute that needs no instruction.
“You can’t teach size,” Schonfelder said of the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Kochetkov. “He’s a big presence in net.”
And during his brief time in Chicago — he was recalled two days shy of the two-month anniversary of his first start with the Wolves — Kochetkov has also endeared himself to teammates and fans with his fiery play.
Since coming to North America, Kochetkov has chirped at an opposing bench, skated the length of the ice when the other team’s goalie engaged in a scrum, and he’s even nearly scored an empty-net goal.
“He’s a fan favorite with his teammates and a good guy in the room,” Schonfelder said. “But yeah, he plays with passion, and hopefully we see a little bit of that when his time comes here.”
That time could come soon. With Frederik Andersen injured, the Hurricanes have shifted No. 1 duties to Antti Raanta. So while they want to get Raanta in a good groove if he needs to start in the postseason, they also want to be careful about not overworking him.
Raanta will start Thursday at home against the Jets, but Carolina then has back-to-back afternoon road games Saturday and Sunday against the Devils and Islanders, respectively. After that, the Hurricanes’ penultimate game of the regular season could decide the Metropolitan Division when they travel to Madison Square Garden to face the Rangers on Tuesday.
It would make sense to give Kochetkov one of the two weekend games.
“I think so,” Schonfelder said when asked if he anticipated Kochetkov playing before the end of the regular season. “With Freddie out, we want to get Rants into some games here and get him into a rhythm.
“We take it game by game, so we’ll see how it goes (Thursday), that’s what we’re worried about. And down the line, we’ll see where we can plug him in.”
A lot also hinges on the status of Andersen. Brind’Amour said Wednesday that the goalie had undergone an MRI, presumably on his left knee. The injury, suffered Saturday in Colorado, is unrelated to Andersen’s knee troubles with Toronto chronicled on Amazon Prime’s “All or Nothing” docuseries from last season. While Andersen hasn’t resumed skating, he is working off-ice and the team is hopeful he’ll be ready for the playoffs.
If not, Raanta will enter the playoffs as the team’s top goalie. And even if he’s not needed this postseason, Kochetkov is an ace in the hole for the Hurricanes down the road.
“Everything that he’s shown us up to this date, it’s been really good,” Schonfelder said. “I don’t want to look too far down the road, and goaltending is tough too — it takes a little bit of time.
“But yeah, in my mind he’s definitely somebody that we want to have around for a long time.”