The Carolina Hurricanes have reached perhaps the defining moment of their regular season on a bit of a roll — and in a tough spot in terms of goaltending.
In Tuesday night’s important showdown against the host New York Rangers, the Hurricanes might be counting on Pyotr Kochetkov in his third career NHL game.
Kochetkov played in the first two games of this road trip, first in a full outing at New Jersey and then in relief Sunday when Antti Raanta exited with an injury against the New York Islanders.
Raanta’s situation comes after No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen suffered a lower-body injury April 16.
“You don’t want injuries in that position, but the team has obviously done a great job with having some depth and Kochetkov has come in and played really well,” Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal said. “So we’re going to continue to fight for him up front. We want to keep playing well for him and keep moving on.”
Carolina (52-20-8, 112 points) can wrap up the Metropolitan Division title with a victory, while the Rangers (51-22-6, 108 points) must win to stay alive for the divisional crown.
“We want to finish first. We want to win every game we play,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “At the end of the day when the season is over, whether we’re first or second (we) get home ice (for the opening round). … I’m really happy the way our team has played the last five or six games.”
The Hurricanes finish Thursday night at home against the New Jersey Devils. The Rangers, who’ll be playing after a two-day layoff, end with three straight home games, with visits from Montreal on Wednesday and Washington on Friday to finish the slate.
The Hurricanes have rattled off four consecutive victories since the Rangers pulled even in the standings. In the past three games, Carolina has trailed or been tied in the third period.
“The character of this group is second to none,” Hurricanes winger Max Domi said. “Facing a little adversity, it’s going to be a test of your character of your group.”
The final week of the regular season isn’t a good time to have issues at the goalie position. Minor leaguer Alex Lyon has been injured as well.
“What are you going to do, cry over it?” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We just have to keep moving forward.”
Kochetkov gave up a goal on the first shot he faced Sunday before stopping the last seven attempts from the Islanders.
“Everyone tightened up to help out a teammate,” Carolina forward Derek Stepan said. “The kid did a great job.”
Kochetkov isn’t the only Hurricanes rookie coming through recently. Forward Seth Jarvis has scored in three straight games and has a five-game point streak.
It will be Carolina’s second visit to Madison Square Garden this month after a 4-2 victory April 12.
Since then, New York won four games in a row before Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Boston. The Rangers haven’t allowed a goal in their last two home games.
“Just got to keep going and look forward to the Carolina game,” Rangers center Mika Zibanejad said.
Regardless of the divisional pecking order, New York is gearing up for the playoffs. That might factor into lineup decisions with the need to have healthy players for the postseason, Gallant said.
–Field Level Media