Hurricanes’ Frederik Andersen epitomizes perseverance

The goalie is Carolina’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen is the PHWA Carolina chapter’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — Frederik Andersen has noticed he bruises more easily, the pucks that he used stop without repercussions sometimes leaving a reminder of what he’s gone through the past five months.

“I guess you could call it an obstacle that I’m proud of the way I handled throughout the process,” said Andersen, the Professional Hockey Writers Association Carolina chapter’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is given annually to the NHL player “best exemplifying perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

In November, Andersen was listed as out indefinitely with a blood-clotting issue which was later revealed to be deep-vein thrombosis resulting in pulmonary embolisms.

“I was dealing with some pain low in the lungs,” he said of initially noticing something wasn’t right, “and that’s what kind of hindered me breathing. … I was playing through a game with a little bit of pain, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is not great,’ but I felt like it was not the worst I’ve played through. And all of a sudden we’re being told you can’t be on the ice.”

Andersen’s first step once he was diagnosed was learning as much as he could about the condition — “I think I’ve been very curious as a person,” he said — and then working with his doctors, trainers and the Hurricanes to come up with a treatment plan and, eventually, a roadmap to getting back on the ice.

“It was a minimum of three months on a heavy dose of blood thinners,” he said, “and that, obviously, would limit my access to be on the ice. And that was probably the biggest shock, to be honest.”

With an expected timetable of three to six months for his condition to clear up, Andersen was able to move past the initial scare of the diagnosis and focus on resuming a career that had been in jeopardy.

“Once I knew that, I was like, ‘OK, well, we can treat it as an offseason almost,’” he said. “And that’s where my trainer, Scot (Prohaska), and Billy (Burniston, the Hurricanes’ head strength and conditioning coach) in the room here kind of collaborated a little bit just to come up with a plan. … It took some weeks and months to kind of ramp up to full speed and being able to do what I would normally do in an offseason in terms of (the intensity level of) exercise.”

On Jan. 31, the Hurricanes revealed Andersen’s diagnosis to the public and also announced he had been cleared to resume on-ice conditioning. On March 7, he made his first start in more than four months, stopping 24 of 25 shots in a 4-1 home win over the Montreal Canadiens.

He won all seven of his starts in March, not allowing more than two goals in any of those games, and is 11-2-0 with a .927 save percentage, 1.97 goals-against average and two shutouts after a loss Thursday to the visiting Bruins — his first defeat since his final start before his diagnosis.

“I’ve been happy to be just getting back in the locker room,” Andersen said. “It’s been so much fun, and I think this room has been great and supported me as well. And they’ve been out there competing every time I’ve been in the net, and it’s been really fun to be able to be back with them.”

It’s not, however, just a feel-good story. Andersen has made a case to be the Hurricanes’ starter come the start of the playoffs in two weeks, though rookie Pyotr Kochetkov is also staking a claim to that role. The two have alternated starts since Andersen’s return, and coach Rod Brind’Amour will have a tough but enviable decision to make for Game 1 of the first round.

“One’s great,” he said of having a reliable goalie. “Two’s even better.”

And Brind’Amour also hopes Andersen’s season becomes about more than him overcoming life-threatening adversity.

“I think the story is not quite done yet with him,” Brind’Amour said. “Hopefully it ends with something better.”

A Stanley Cup would certainly be that — and it would make all those new bruises worth it.