Svechnikov can only watch as Hurricanes open NHL playoffs

By Aaron Beard

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Andrei Svechnikov shed his suit jacket, grabbed the top of the siren with his left hand and started turning the crank with his right. Faster and faster he went, putting his entire body into sounding the “storm warning” announcing the Carolina Hurricanes’ charge onto the ice in front of a roaring home crowd.

It was all the 23-year-old star forward could do to help his team open the Stanley Cup playoffs as he recovers from knee surgery.

“Right now, you’re watching and you just want to go out there and play hockey,” he said Monday night during Carolina’s 2-1 win against the New York Islanders that opened a first-round playoff series. “It’s been tough. It’s part of our life and my life as well. You’ve just got to stay patient. I’m going to have lots of time.”

Svechnikov, a former No. 2 overall draft pick who signed an eight-year deal with the team in August 2021, has been a fixture for the Hurricanes’ current five-year playoff run. He’s a physical forward bringing size and scoring punch as a top-line performer, and he’s shown flair with lacrosse-style goals by scooping up the puck from behind the net and wrapping around the pipes to jam it past the goalie.

Losing him is a big blow considering he scored 30 regular-season goals last year and had 23 in 64 games this year. It comes amid concerns about the team’s lack of overall scoring depth that has factored into earlier-than-expected postseason exits the past two years.

He injured his right knee March 11 in a home loss to Vegas. The team originally said he would be out indefinitely and had hoped for a better diagnosis before announcing March 14 that he had torn his anterior cruciate ligament.

But Svechnikov pointed back to a 2020 injury as a factor from the Toronto bubble after the sport returned following the COVID-19 pandemic stoppage. In Game 3 of a first-round series against Boston, Svechnikov went down when his right leg twisted awkwardly beneath him as he fell while jostling with the Bruins’ Zdeno Chara for position.

Svechnikov, who missed the last two games of that series loss, said he had a torn medial collateral ligament and a slight tear to his ACL as well as a sprained ankle from that incident.

He was greeted Monday night with a rousing pregame cheer and ovation from towel-waving fans, with Svechnikov waving and patting his heart in acknowledgement.

“I’ve been feeling that love the last four weeks to be honest,” he said, noting neighbors have come by to bring cookies as he recovers.

As for that mini-workout on the siren, it wasn’t as easy as it looked.

“I don’t know, you tell me,” he said when asked how he thought he did. “I think very good. But I was going and my shoulder got tired. I was (ready) to stop a couple of times. But it took a while. So it was fun.”