RALEIGH — The Islanders and Hurricanes will play Game 6 at UBS Arena on Friday at 7 p.m., and Carolina will have its second chance to close out a series it now leads 3-2.
1. I had an informal chat with Antti Raanta on Thursday, and the Hurricanes goalie made it clear he would have preferred to play after just one day off. The second day off, he said, kind of knocks everyone out of a rhythm, and he bemoaned the plight of the Kings and Oilers, who have three days off between their Games 5 and 6.
He also said the Finnish league sometimes has five days off between playoff games — to me, that hardly seems like a series.
Anyway, the feeling I got from Raanta is he’s not feeling worn down at all. If anything, he — and the rest of the players in the playoffs, I’d imagine — just want to play.
Captain Jordan Staal seemed to embrace the pause a little more.
“Obviously it’s a grind, and it’s nice to get a day off,” Staal said. “But both teams are in the same situation, so it doesn’t really change a ton.”
Overall, the rest was probably welcomed, but now everyone is ready to get back to work.
“I guess the right answer is to say, ‘Yep, for sure,’ Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said when asked if he viewed Wednesday’s off day as a positive. “I don’t know. I think there’s part of that and there’s part of this, want(ing) to get right back out there and get playing. So I guess maybe a little of both.”
2. Brind’Amour said Frederik Andersen is on the cusp of being ready to play. The veteran goalie dressed for Game 5 on Long Island, backing up Raanta after being unavailable in Games 2-4 due to illness and then injury.
“Yep, there’s a chance,” Brind’Amour said of Andersen playing in Game 6. “I mean, like we said earlier, it was no chance. And now he’s definitely right there.”
Andersen is still yet to play in a postseason game for Carolina in his two seasons in Raleigh, dressing just twice in 19 games. His playoff reputation has been dragged through the mud as part of Toronto’s never-ending struggles to advance out of the first round, but he actually has good postseason numbers in his career: 27-23 with a .916 save percentage, 2.55 goals-against average and three shutouts.
Still, switching to Andersen in Game 6 — especially when Raanta has played so well — would be a bold call. If Carolina did do it, Brind’Amour doesn’t seem overly concerned with the 33-year-old’s ability to jump into the series.
“Any of these games are big, so there’ll be a concern, for sure,” Brind’Amour said. “The only good thing is really both our guys have done this for a while where they were out. So I don’t think it affects them quite as much as maybe other guys who are just used to playing all the time.”
3. The Hurricanes got the road game monkey off their back with a win in Game 4 at UBS Arena, ending an eight-game losing streak away from PNC Arena in the postseason. Carolina would certainly like to have a follow-up performance and put away the Isles in Game 6.
“I think we always had confidence on the road, (we) just never got the results,” said Seth Jarvis, who scored twice in Game 5 to help end the drought. “But now that we’ve got one, I think it’s the same feeling. Just going in there, we need to win a game. This is a pivotal game — no one wants to go to Game 7. So just going in there and doing a job like we did last time.”
Carolina is also just 1-4 the last five times they’ve had a chance to finish off a series.
“The hardest one’s the fourth win, all the time, to close it out,” Jarvis said. “Everyone’s desperate, everyone wants to keep playing.”
4. Brent Burns hasn’t scored in five games this postseason, stretching his playoff goal drought to 12 games. It’s his longest stretch without a goal in the postseason since he failed to score in the first 12 playoff games of his career.
His last playoff goal was on May 6, 2019, a tying goal in the second period of San Jose’s 4-3 Game 6 overtime loss to the Avalanche that evened the series that the Sharks won in Game 7.
Burns had two primary assists in that 3-2 win that knocked out Colorado that year. San Jose then lost in six games to St. Louis in the Western Conference finals — the last time Burns played in the playoffs until doing so with the Hurricanes this season.
He has points in Carolina’s three wins in the series — two assists in each of the series’ first two games and another assist in Game 5 — but was held off the score sheet in the two losses.
Burns had 34 games without a point this season, and the Hurricanes were 13-14-7. They were 39-7-2 when he had at least one point, including 12-1-0 when he had two or more points.
5. Jack Drury skated with the team in a yellow no-contact jersey in Thursday’s practice. He had skated with the team’s black aces the day before after missing nearly all of the last two games after a penalized hit by Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock knocked him out of Game 4 in the opening minutes.
Drury did not go with the team to Long Island for Game 6, with rookie Vasily Ponomarev traveling as the extra forward. Ponomarev did not skate with the Hurricanes’ main group on Thursday, watching much of the practice from the tunnel and bench.
Brind’Amour said Drury could be close to returning.
“It was good to see him,” the coach said of Drury joining the team for practice. “He’s not traveling with us, so he’s not quite ready. But he’s right around the corner, that’s for sure.”