Category 5: Hurricanes focus on power play, shrug off Reaves’ comments

Carolina shuffled up their PP units and seemed disinterested in what New York's enforcer had to say Monday

Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo checks Rangers right wing Ryan Reaves during Game 2 of their second round playoff series last Friday in Raleigh. (Chris Seward / AP Photo)

The Hurricanes held a rare postseason off-day practice Monday in between games of their Eastern Conference semifinal with the Rangers, getting a familiar face back on the ice, working on a reorganized power play and engaging in some war of words gamesmanship.

1. Goalie Frederik Andersen practiced with the team for the first time since he was injured against the Avalanche on April 16 in Colorado.

“He’s on the ice, that’s good,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “He didn’t really get into too much yet, but it’s nice to see that it’s moving along.”

Andersen worked on the ice before practice and stayed on the ice for about 20 minutes with the team before calling it a day.

“It was great to see him,” Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho said after practice. “I just love to see Freddie out there. I don’t think I scored once on him today, so he’s still a great goalie.”

Brind’Amour said Andersen still was not an option, so one can assume rookie Pyotr Kochetkov will again dress as the backup for Tuesday’s Game 4.

2. Antti Raanta was noticeably absent from the practice, but Brind’Amour said was to “give him a rest.”

Raanta has now played a combined 37 games this season (28 in the regular season and nine in the playoffs), the second most he’s played in a season during his nine years in the NHL. His career high was 47 games played in 2017-18 with Arizona, his best season.

Raanta has stood out this postseason, posting a .939 save percentage, 1.86 goals-against average and is credited with seven quality starts.

Brind’Amour wasn’t ready to address whether Andersen would resume his role as the team’s No. 1 goalie once he’s healthy and ready to dress for a game.

“We’ll see where we’re at when he’s an option,” Brind’Amour said.

Defenseman Brendan Smith also had a rest day and didn’t skate.

3. The Hurricanes spent a good chunk of Monday’s practice working on their power play, which is 0 for 7 in the series, 5 for 43 (11.6%) in the postseason and hasn’t scored in four games.

“One group’s actually been really good, creating a lot of chances,” Brind’Amour said, referring to his second unit. “Our so-called top unit hasn’t been very good. They’re the ones that really struggled. So I’m just trying to shake it up a little bit there, and we’ll see where it goes.”

The shakeup was moving Teuvo Teravainen off the top unit and bringing up Nino Niederreiter to work the front of the net. Niederreiter had four power play goals this season and one more so far in the playoffs, but none came with the team’s primary unit.

Brind’Amour said Niederreiter’s hands in front could provide a boost.

“He knows what he’s doing there,” Brind’Amour said. “But it’s more just we obviously got to get some goals. It’s nice to say, ‘Oh, that was good’ or ‘that hit the post,’ but we gotta find some goals.”

Seth Jarvis was elevated to the top unit in the Boston series but has played with Niederreiter frequently on the second group.

“A really big body in front of the net,” Jarvis said. “I think he’s a great presence there. He always finds those kind of dirty rebounds to bang home.

“Just another big body, especially when there’s a bunch of 50-50 pucks. I think he’ll help out a lot just kind of getting those back and keeping us in the zone.”

Aho said the key was “getting on the same page” as a unit. Does adding Niederreiter, who hasn’t played with that group all season, make that harder?

“Nino’s a great player,” Aho said. “I played with him a lot in the past, and everyone has played with everyone, right? It’s not an issue at all.”

4. All the buzz after Game 3 was about the scuffle between Carolina’s Max Domi and New York’s Ryan Lindgren after the final horn. Rangers coach Gerard Gallant could be seen yelling and gesturing at Hurricanes players afterward, and then in his postgame interview he accused Carolina of trying to “send a message.”

“He really said that?” a smirking Brind’Amour responded Monday. “I didn’t listen. I don’t know what he’s talking about. It’s not like we have guys that send messages.”

Aho also seemed surprised at the accusation from Gallant.

“It’s just nothing,” he said. “I don’t think it was much, so we move on. Not much there.”

Jarvis also shrugged off Gallant’s comments.

“I don’t know what message we’re sending,” he said. “I think we’re just playing to the final buzzer.”

When asked if he had ever “sent a message,” Jarvis responded that he might have back in his Western Hockey League days.

“I’m not going to be out here sending any messages,” Jarvis said with a smile and laugh. “That’s not my game, that’s not what I do. … When I was younger I was, probably. Not now. I wouldn’t send any messages.”

5. Gallant’s comments Sunday took a further turn when he mentioned “we got the guy who can handle all their guys if we have to.”

He was of course talking about Ryan Reaves, among the last of a dying breed of enforcers who are used for little else than intimidation and deterrence.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Reaves had just three fights this season, but he has 74 regular season fights in his career and two more in his playoff career.

Reaves seemed to have gotten the message his coach was sending after Game 3.

“I don’t want to say anything stupid here. You never want to see a guy chirping your bench,” Reaves said, referencing Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo. “I was on the ice for that. I wish I would have seen that — I was more looking at the Domi-Lindgren thing. … I’m gonna go do my thing, go run some people and get in their face. Try and get the same result as last night, another win.”

Brind’Amour seemed to welcome Reaves — who had 38.6% possession numbers and a team-worst minus-13 in the regular season — being on the ice more.

“I don’t know what he’s waiting for then,” Brind’Amour said of Reaves’ comments. “Everyone’s going to go do what they do. It’s that time of year. … You gotta do what you do this time of year, otherwise what good are you? You gotta contribute and do what you’re supposed to do. I’d expect nothing less.”