MORRISVILLE — The Hurricanes have lost three straight and four of five after starting the season with back-to-back wins. The good news? Carolina will get to play on home ice for the first time since Oct. 11 on Thursday when the Kraken come to PNC Arena.
The Hurricanes also play Friday against the Sharks — the last team they beat, a 6-3 road win back on Oct. 19 — before hitting the road for three road games and a stretch of five of six away from Raleigh.
1. The biggest news to come out of Wednesday was that Brett Pesce’s lower-body injury is worse than expected — and then better than expected.
Coach Rod Brind’Amour said Monday he didn’t expect Pesce to be out long term, but a reevaluation yesterday proved otherwise.
“Bad news,” Brind’Amour said Wednesday.” I was hoping he’d be a day or two away, but that’s definitely not the case.”
I followed up and asked if Pesce should be considered week-to-week.
“I’d say it’s way more than that,” Brind’Amour said. “So that’s not good.”
The team later announced that Pesce had undergone surgery and would be out 2-4 weeks.
Losing Pesce is a big blow, but 2-4 weeks sounds a lot better than the “way more” Brind’Amour initially suggested. Carolina has had its troubles on defense so far this season, and the penalty kill has also struggled. Being without one of the team’s best defenders and penalty killers doesn’t help.
Fortunately, the Hurricanes have depth. Brind’Amour was already grappling with how to play seven NHL defensemen, so while losing Pesce hurts, the blow is softened by having Jalen Chatfield available to play a bigger role.
Carolina has tried a few configurations without Pesce. Jaccob Slavin and Brent Burns have remained together, but the Hurricanes have tried both a left-right setup — with Brady Skjei paired with Tony DeAngelo and Dmitry Orlov coupled with Jalen Chatfield — and both Orlov (with Skjei) and Chatfield (with DeAngelo) on their off side.
Dylan Coghlan, recalled Monday from AHL Springfield, is with the team as the seventh defenseman.
2. There is some good news on the injury front: It looks like Andrei Svechnikov will play soon, perhaps even on Thursday against Seattle.
“Well, we’ll see,” Brind’Amour said. “I think we’re kind of at the point where it’s getting in his hands. So when he gives us the green light, I think we’re gonna definitely chuck them in there. So we’re definitely counting the days, whether it’s tomorrow or the next game, I think we’re right around the corner.”
Svechnikov skated on the fourth line with Jack Drury and Stefan Noesen in practice, with Brendan Lemieux rotating in. Svechnikov — who last played March 11 and is recovering from knee surgery — also worked with the power play, joining Sebastian Aho, Seth Jarvis, Teuvo Teravainen and DeAngelo on the top unit.
Brind’Amour added that he anticipated Frederik Andersen saying he’d be OK to play tomorrow and “if he does, we’ll put him in.”
3. It was a little surprising to see Drury drop the gloves Tuesday in Tampa Bay, taking on the Lightning’s Nick Paul after the forward took exception to a collision Skjei had with Nikita Kucherov.
As Paul eyed up Skjei, Drury jumped in and held his own against the 6-foot-3, 223-pound winger.
Drury has actually had a good amount of fights in his professional career, even if this was his first in the NHL. Brind’Amour wasn’t stunned Drury would jump in to intervene.
“Not surprised,” the coach said. “I mean, he’s a good kid and came to what he thought was the aid of his buddy. So I appreciate that. I don’t really like seeing the fighting part because somebody could get hurt there. But I know what he was trying to do, and I think we all appreciate that.”
Drury had four scraps over the last two seasons with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, and he also had five fights in two seasons playing for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL from 2016 to 2018.
At the end of Wednesday’s practice, Drury got some pointers from Lemieux.
Lemieux teaching Drury some of the finer points of fighting. pic.twitter.com/QSHn55fVBB
— Cory Lavalette (@corylav) October 25, 2023
4. One of the Hurricanes’ woes has been faceoffs. Carolina is usually one of the top teams at the dot in the league — since Brind’Amour took over, the team ranked fifth in win percentage at 52%. The first seven games of this season have been a different story.
The Hurricanes ranked 21st in the league heading into Wednesday night’s games, winning 49.2%. Given that Carolina has taken 439 faceoffs, that’s only a difference of winning 12 or 13 more of those draws — not overly alarming.
More bothersome is when the Hurricanes are losing faceoffs. They’ve been fine at even strength (51.9%, 10th) but have struggled on special teams. Carolina’s in the middle of the pack on penalty kill faceoffs (44.3%, 16th), but the losses have led to goals.
The Hurricanes' penalty killing woes can almost exclusively be traced back to Jordan Staal struggling in the faceoff dot while shorthanded. Every single goal against while shorthanded has been preceded by Staal losing the faceoff prior to it. He is 13 for 31 on PK faceoffs.
— Ryan Henkel (@RyanHenkel_) October 22, 2023
More curiously, the Hurricanes are dead last in win percentage on the power play at 40%.
Brind’Amour said Wednesday that some of the struggles are because the team doesn’t have a right-handed center.
“In the past, we’ve always had one guy even just to throw out there to alleviate the amount of stress you have on that side,” he said. “You see us trying to throw Jarvy in there, different things, but he’s not really up to speed on that yet. So it’s kind of anticipated.”
That, however, shouldn’t be a factor on the power play when Carolina gets to pick which side it wants to hold the draw in the offensive zone.
“You can skew numbers how you want,” Brind’Amour said when asked. “The key on those faceoffs is how many can you win clean because that’s how you get your set up. If it’s not clean, it’s hard. And then our retrieval plan hasn’t been up to snuff either. So there’s a few things that have to be cleaned up, but that’s a huge part of the game and is something that we’ve got to get better at.”
Lastly, the team has missed having Aho in the circle. After being out three games with an upper-body injury, he returned for Tuesday’s loss in Tampa but didn’t take faceoffs — an indication that whatever is ailing him is not fully recovered.
Have you been to a Hurricanes practice and seen the defending players line up like this?
It’s a pretty easy explanation as to why the team starts some drills this way.
“It’s just to give it the offensive a little more time,” Brind’Amour told me Monday. “Otherwise, it just gets squished right away. So if you don’t give that second to get moving, you can’t really do the drill right.”