RALEIGH — For the Carolina Hurricanes, it’s time.
The Hurricanes put in two weeks of training camp in Raleigh, left for Toronto, practiced and played an exhibition game. Off the ice, they’ve played poker, Catan and mini-golf, all the typical team-bonding stuff, while adjusting to life in a “bubble” designed to keep them secure and healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.
But it’s now time to begin what brought them together: pursuit of the Stanley Cup.
When the NHL players voted on the league’s Return to Play playoff scenarios, the Hurricanes voted against a 24-team format, preferring only the top 16 teams compete. The New York Rangers, who were outside the 16 when the season was paused, took notice and took issue.
So here we are. The Hurricanes and Rangers play Game 1 of their best-of-five qualifying round today at Scotiabank Arena, and Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Friday they would do it without defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
Hamilton, injured during training camp, missed the last two practices in Raleigh and the three in Toronto, plus the exhibition game Wednesday. Brind’Amour said Hamilton, who got in some skating Friday after practice, was “getting better” but was still “unfit to play” — the NHL Phase 4 terminology — although Brind’Amour didn’t rule out a return during the series.
“You would hope so but we’re certainly not going to rush him back,” Brind’Amour said in his media call. “But if he’s close to being able to play he’s going to get in there. We know the importance of having him in the lineup. It’s a huge, huge loss for us. So we want to get him back in there ASAP.”
Hamilton suffered a broken left fibula in January that required surgery, forced him to miss the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend and kept him out of the last 21 games of the season before the pause. He was back skating and ready for training camp, only to leave the ice in pain during the July 22 practice at PNC Arena.
While Hamilton is out, the Hurricanes could have forward Martin Necas in the lineup for Game 1. Necas, who left the final practice in Raleigh last Saturday with an undisclosed injury, had not been in team on-ice workouts in Toronto before returning Friday.
Brind’Amour didn’t say who Necas would replace among the forwards, should he play. Nor did he name his starting goaltender, saying he was waiting until Friday night to let the starter know he would be in net for Game 1.
This article is published through the N.C. News Collaborative, a partnership of Lee, Gannett and McClatchy newspapers in North Carolina that aims to better inform readers throughout the state.