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HomeSportsHockeyNHL News: Surging Hurricanes brace for playoff rematch vs. Islanders

NHL News: Surging Hurricanes brace for playoff rematch vs. Islanders

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The Carolina Hurricanes aim for a repeat performance when they face off against the New York Islanders in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Game 1 is Saturday in Raleigh, N.C.

Carolina won the series opener 2-1 against New York last season and captured the series in six games. The Hurricanes advanced to the conference finals before being swept by the Florida Panthers.

Both teams enter the postseason playing well, albeit at less than 100 percent.

The Hurricanes won seven of their final nine games to finish second in the Metropolitan Division, one spot lower in the standings and two points fewer than last season.

“We’ve got a team that believes we can win it all,” Carolina captain Jordan Staal said. “It’s going to be a dogfight and it’s not going to be easy. There’s going to be ups and downs, and hard games. It’s just a matter of pushing through and finding a way.”

Carolina will be without its playoff goal-scoring leader from a year ago when the series begins.

Jesper Fast suffered an upper-body injury when he slid into the end boards in the regular-season finale against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. He missed practice on Thursday and Friday.

“That’s the part that just makes you sick, to be honest with you,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “You’re just trying to get through the game without having that (happen).”

The Islanders ascended to third place in the Metro following an 8-0-1 run to end the season, but they also lost a forward to injury during the finale on Wednesday.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau left in the first period of the 5-4 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins because of a lower-body injury. He’s day-to-day after missing practice Friday.

Pageau had 11 goals and 22 assists while playing all 82 games during the regular season.

On the positive side, Islanders coach Patrick Roy confirmed that defenseman Noah Dobson is ready to return after missing the past three games due to an upper-body injury.

Dobson finished second on the team with 70 points and first with 60 assists, which also was sixth in the NHL among defensemen.

The Hurricanes and Islanders split their four meetings this season with each side winning once in overtime.

“It’s going to be tough,” Islanders forward Brock Nelson said. “They play hard, they play fast, they’ve got a lot of skill. They’re in your face, they play the man-on-man system. We’ve got to be ready to go and we’re excited for the challenge.”

Carolina forward Jordan Martinook expects the Islanders to be motivated and well prepared as well.

“They’re a veteran team that plays well within their structure,” he said. “They’re really not going to make mistakes. You’re going to have to push them into deep water.”

Until the regular-season finale Tuesday, when No. 3 goalie Spencer Martin made his first start since Feb. 29, Frederik Andersen and Pyotr Kochetkov rotated starts for 20 consecutive games.

Brind’Amour wouldn’t tip his hand whether he’ll continue a rotation in the playoffs.

“I think everything is on the table,” he said. “Health is going to be a big question, staying fresh and all of that.”

Semyon Varlamov will start Game 1 in goal for the Islanders.

He’s 6-4-4 in his career against the Hurricanes with a 2.46 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

–Field Level Media

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