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Conference Final

Svechnikov growing into playoff role with Hurricanes

Rookie making presence felt on first line heading into Game 2 against Bruins

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Andrei Svechnikov's first attempt at growing a Stanley Cup Playoff beard has produced some scruff on his chin and above his upper lip that has the makings of a decent goatee, and not much else.

"I don't like it," the Carolina Hurricanes rookie forward said Saturday.

He probably couldn't ask for much more, being follicly challenged at 19 years old, but he's not giving up.

"I'm not going to shave," he said. "After Stanley Cup only."

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Hurricanes series coverage]

 

Wanting more has been part of Svechnikov's journey as a rookie after Carolina selected the Barnaul, Russia native with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. The Hurricanes brought him along slowly and held him back at times, but coach Rod Brind'Amour is taking the training wheels off now in the Eastern Conference Final against the Boston Bruins, playing Svechnikov on the top line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen and using him on the first power-play unit.

After losing 5-2 in Game 1 on Thursday, the Hurricanes need a win in Game 2 at TD Garden on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS) to even the best-of-7 series and Brind'Amour recognizes Svechnikov has the skill to be a difference-maker.

"There's a lot of new things we're throwing at him, but we're in a do-or-die moment now," Brind'Amour said. "We have to put the best guys out there and they have to figure it out."

Svechnikov, who has five points (three goals, two assists) in six playoff games, welcomes the chance after having 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) in the regular season. He has been one of Carolina's best players in three playoff games since returning from a concussion that caused him to miss six games.

Video: NYI@CAR, Gm4: Svechnikov tacks on insurance goal

That prompted Brind'Amour to move Svechnikov from the third line up to the first line during the Hurricanes' 5-2 series-clinching win against the New York Islanders that completed a second-round four-game sweep. Teravainen and Svechnikov each scored an even-strength goal after the change, so Brind'Amour kept them together for the start of the series against Boston.

"Early in the year, we had to hold him back because he wasn't ready," Brind'Amour said. "People see how fast he can skate and shoot and they're like, 'You've got to get him out there more.' But he didn't know how to play. I liken it to a kid who probably his whole life had the puck or was on teams that dominated and didn't need to know how to play away from the puck. Well, in the NHL, 90 percent of the time you're on the ice, you don't have it. So 10 percent of the time he looked good, but the other 90 we were having some issues. 

"So we had to slow him down and kind of teach him the game."

After putting in the work with assistant Jeff Daniels after practices and games, Svechnikov's play away from the puck has improved, as has his confidence in utilizing his offensive skills.

That was evident on his assist on Aho's power-play goal in Game 1 against Boston that tied the score at 1-1 at 3:42 of the first period. Set up in the left circle, Svechnikov wound up as if he were going to shoot and passed instead to Aho, who was cutting to the front of the net for a redirection past goalie Tuukka Rask.

"I didn't shoot that one," Svechnikov said. "I just saw [Aho]. He was kind of driving to the net and I passed to him and it was a good chance for us."

Video: Hurricanes hope to improve power play for Game 2

Svechnikov played limited time on the power play during the regular season and rarely on the first unit. None of his goals were on the power play, but he did have five power-play assists. And his teammates can see his potential as a weapon with his hard shot and vision.

"Getting the opportunity there, you can tell he's got a lot of smarts and great hands, but I think his threat for his shot really helps, too," center Jordan Staal said. "I think it can back the team off a bit and he can snap it from anywhere, which is always a good threat to have and with [defenseman Justin Faulk] back there too, we have a couple guys who can bomb it."

At even strength, the challenge for Svechnikov, Aho and Teravainen is playing at times against the Bruins first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, particularly in the games in Boston, where the Bruins have last change. Neither first line produced an even-strength goal in Game 1, so in that way the matchup was a wash.

Svechnikov wants to do more than that.

"We want to just play our game and be physical on those guys," Svechnikov said "Play our game. Don't watch those guys. … We just have to go out there and win that game." 

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