Category 5: Hurricanes start home stand against Sharks

Steven Lorentz makes his return to PNC Arena

Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov chases the puck with Minnesota's Jared Spurgeon during a Jan. 19 game in Raleigh. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — The Hurricanes host the Sharks on Friday, the first game of a three-game home stand for a Carolina squad that has played 26 games on the road to 21 at home so far this season. The Hurricanes will then play in Buffalo on Feb. 1 before having a nine-day break that includes both the All-Star break and league-mandated five-day breaks.

The Hurricanes will then have six of their seven remaining games in February at home — including Feb. 18 Stadium Series Game at Carter-Finley Stadium.

1. Andrei Svechnikov is currently mired in an 11-game goal drought, tied for the longest stretch he’s gone without scoring in his NHL career.

“Everyone has their ups and downs,” Svechnikov, who is stuck on 19 goals, said following Friday’s morning skate. “I feel like this (has been) a bad period for me, obviously. I try to stay focused and move on and we’ll see what’s gonna happen. I’ll be buzzing out there (Friday) and I’ll be good.”

He’s yet to score in 2023, with his last goal coming on Dec. 30 against Florida, and he has five assists in those 11 games.

“I think he’s getting a little frustrated,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “You can tell, you sense that. But I thought he played a great game the other night (in a 3-2 overtime win over Dallas). He had a bunch of chances late and they were all just, basically, individual efforts. The goalie made a couple nice saves on him. So as long as he’s getting the opportunities, that’s really all you can ask for.”

After having just 24 penalty minutes in 36 games during the first three months of the season, Svechnikov has 29 PIMs — 15 of which came on a five-minute major and game misconduct against the Wild on Jan. 19 — in 11 games so far in January.

One thing to watch: Jesperi Kotknaniemi was put back in between Svechnikov and Martin Necas after one period in Dallas, which seemed to coincide with Svechnikov’s play picking up. It looks like Kotkaniemi will start Friday’s game on that line again, with Paul Stastny centering the fourth line.

2. Svechnikov might have some added motivation since older brother Evgeny will be playing for the Sharks on Friday, the latter’s first game since Jan. 7.

“I got to spend a day with my brother, so it was very fun,” the younger Svechnikov said of Thursday. “We just spent the whole afternoon and went for dinner. So it was awesome to chat with him and just seeing him.”

Evgeny will play on a line with former Hurricanes forward Steven Lorentz, who will be playing his first game at PNC Arena since being traded to the Sharks in the deal that brought Brent Burns to Carolina.

“When we played the first game, we chirped with each other a little bit,” Svechnikov said facing off with Lorentz in the Hurricanes’ Oct. 14 game in San Jose. “ So it makes it fun to play against that guy as well.”

3. I briefly chatted with Lorentz after he participated in the Sharks’ optional skate. First off, it was no surprise to see Lorentz as one of a handful of players on the ice. Not many players have scratched and clawed their way to the NHL through dogged hard work like Lorentz.

Undrafted in his first year of eligibility, Lorentz was a seventh-round pick by Carolina in 2015. He played two more OHL seasons with Peterborough before earning an NHL contract. In 2017-18, he reached the Kelly Cup finals with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. After playing most of the next year there, he joined the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers for the end of the season and played 12 games in that team’s run to the Calder Cup.

In 2019-20, he scored 23 goals and 46 points in 61 games with the Checkers before carving out a spot on the Hurricanes the next two seasons.

Per usual, Lorentz was all smiles after the skate, admitting he’s kept an eye on the Hurricanes this season and was glad to see them doing well. And people with the Sharks, including former Checkers assistant, Chicago Wolves coach and current San Jose assistant Ryan Warsofsky, raved about Lorentz’s work ethic and positive influence in the locker room.

In 47 games this year, Lorentz has five goals and three assists with the Sharks. He’ll surely get a loud ovation from the Raleigh crowd on Friday.

“We loved him,” Brind’Amour said. “He was great for us, and I think we are great for him and got him this opportunity. We’re happy for him that he’s got that opportunity.”

4. Luckily for the Hurricanes, goalie Frederik Andersen was back on the ice at the morning skate after leaving the Stars game after one period with an upper-body injury that appeared to be an arm or hand issue suffered on Jason Robertson’s goal. Watch how Andersen reacts and drops his stick after the shot hits his arm.

Carolina has certainly had its share of goalie injuries this season, so seeing Andersen on the ice — it appears he will back up Antti Raanta against the Sharks — was a relief for Brind’Amour.

“It’s been interesting, that’s for sure,” Brind’Amour said of the goalie injuries. “We just can’t get away from it. We seem to always have a guy going down. It’s tough — that’s the most important position. You definitely want to have healthy guys.”

Brind’Amour said Andersen was checked out and said he felt good on Thursday, meaning the Hurricanes didn’t have to recall Pyotr Kochetkov for the Sharks game.

Defenseman Jaccob Slavin, who has missed the last two games after going to the locker room near the end of the Minnesota game on Jan. 19, will not play Friday but was back on the ice for the morning skate — a step in the right direction.

“We’re not in a situation where we’ve got to rush guys back,” Brind’Amour said. Jalen Chatfield has filled in, playing his off side alongside Burns in the top four, while Dylan Coghlan has dressed and played alongside Calvin de Haan on the third pairing.

5. In my latest article for The Athletic, I tried to explain how I think the Hurricanes’ front office will operate heading into the March 3 trade deadline. In doing so, I mentioned one target that I thought could be a fit for Carolina based on the team’s tendency to acquire players with term — Philadelphia winger Travis Konecny.

It turns out I’m not the only one who thinks the Flyers could move on from arguably their best offensive player. The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor made his case for trading Konecny before he hits unrestricted free agency — he has two years remaining after this year — because it’s unlikely Philadelphia will be a contender in that window.

It’s worth a read.