If you’re Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour, here’s what you’re dealing with:
▪ A team losing its grip on the lead in the Metropolitan Division.
▪ Repercussions from Andrei Svechnikov’s injury.
▪ Forwards who haven’t been scoring enough.
▪ A punchless power play.
▪ Unpredictability in net with the goalies.
Brind’Amour dealt with the highs and lows of a regular season as a player. He has had little but success in five years as a head coach, but now has a team leaving some skid marks at the wrong time of this season, with the Stanley Cup playoffs close at hand.
A 3-2 loss Thursday in Detroit was a gut punch for the Canes, who now lead the New Jersey Devils by one point in the Metro. Overtime, and at least a point, was just seconds away when Red Wings defenseman Jake Walman scored with 3.2 seconds remaining in regulation with a shot through traffic.
“We took a little breather and next thing you know it’s in your net. Tough game,” Brind’Amour said, calling the loss a “kick in the you-know-where.”
The winning goalie was Alex Nedeljkovic, traded away by the Canes in 2021. Nedeljkovic has struggled much of this season, spending a lot of time in the AHL, but stopped 31 of 33 shots Thursday as Carolina’s only goals came from defensemen Brent Burns and Jaccob Slavin on shots from the points.
The Red Wings, who dealt forwards Tyler Bertuzzi and Jakub Vrana at the trade deadline, came into the game 32-32-9. The Canes were 47-17-9 after a testing five-game stretch against four Eastern Conference teams headed to the playoffs.
After a listless 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday, Canes forward Jordan Martinook mentioned that upcoming games against Detroit and the Montreal Canadiens — the Canes’ road opponent Saturday — would not be breathers against non-playoff teams but could be more of the grind.
“We’re gearing up for two, three weeks here where there’s never going to be an easy night,” Martinook said. “These teams we’re going to play might be out of it but I’ve been on that side of it, where you’re playing for jobs and kids are coming up (from the minors) and playing hard. So it’s not like you’re getting an easy game, ever.”
And not when you make it hard on yourselves. The Canes took a 2-1 lead in the second period Thursday, then quickly allowed a power-play goal after a bad hooking penalty by forward Martin Necas.
Carolina’s new-look power play, with center Jordan Staal inserted on one unit, produced two shots in its three power-play opportunities, going 0-for-3.
“We did nothing with ours and that’s the difference in the game,” Brind’Amour said.
SInce scoring on seven of nine power plays in early March games against Arizona and Tampa Bay, the Hurricanes have gone 3-for-30 in their past 13 games.
“It’s been a struggle,” Brind’Amour said.
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, obtained from Arizona, scored in his first two games with the Canes and appeared to be a quick fix for the power play. But he does not have a goal since the quick start, with three assists overall in the past 13 games.
The Hurricanes miss Svechnikov, both on the ice and in the locker room. His ACL tear and season-ending knee surgery came after the trade deadline, leaving Brind’Amour to move forwards around and look at different lines to try and compensate.
“Everybody has to play harder,” forward Teuvo Teravainen said this week.
Teravainen, who had an illness, did not play at Detroit — another forward missing.
The Canes picked up Jesse Puljujarvi from Edmonton before the deadline, but the forward does not have a point in nine games with Carolina. After being a healthy scratch for two games, Puljujarvi played on a line Thursday with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen against the Wings and had four shots in nearly 12 minutes of ice time..
But no forward other than Sebastian Aho has been very consistent of late, and Aho was pointless in nine of 10 games before a recent surge of six goals in seven games. Winger Seth Jarvis does not have a goal in his last 17 games.
Goalie Antti Raanta may get his first game action since March 7 in Saturday’s game in Montreal. Frederik Andersen was the starter Thursday, allowing three goals on 22 shots.
Both have dealt with injuries this season. Both have dealt with injuries in their careers. Andersen was hurt and missed last year’s playoffs, leaving the goaltending to Raanta and rookie Pyotr Kochetkov.
Kochetkov might still be an option this year but he’s back in the AHL for now, having been reassigned to the Chicago Wolves.