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Mrazek practices with Hurricanes, eyes Game 1 return

Goalie missed past two games with lower-body injury, could be healthy for Eastern Conference Final

by Kurt Dusterberg / Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Petr Mrazek practiced Monday, but the goalie's status for the Carolina Hurricanes for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final remains unknown.

"He was in (the) full practice today with no limitations, so that's a positive," coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "I'm not going to make any decisions today, but getting more guys back is nice."

The Hurricanes will play the Boston Bruins in the conference final. The Bruins won their second-round series in six games against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 3-0 victory Monday.

Video: Canes reach fourth Conference Final in as many trips

Mrazek sustained a lower-body injury during the second period of Carolina's 2-1 win against the New York Islanders in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Barclays Center on April 28.

"I felt very good today, good sign," said Mrazek, who is 5-3 with a 2.22 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in nine playoff games. "The injury wasn't that bad. I felt 120 percent today, to be honest."

Curtis McElhinney replaced Mrazek, making 17 saves while the Hurricanes rallied in the third period with two goals.

McElhinney won Games 3 and 4, each by a 5-2 score, to finish the sweep.

"(McElhinney) was outstanding those two games," said Mrazek, who skated with Carolina goalie coach Mike Bales on Sunday before practicing Monday. "I'm very happy he played like he did and we finished the series in four games."

McElhinney has a 1.56 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in his seven periods of playoff hockey this season. In Game 3, the 35-year-old became the oldest goalie to start his first Stanley Cup Playoff game.

Video: McElhinney earns first career playoff series win

Micheal Ferland, who sustained an upper-body injury during Game 3 of the first round against the Washington Capitals on April 15, also practiced. 

"Feeling good," said Ferland, who has no points and 14 penalty minutes in three playoff games. "If we have another couple (of) good days here, I'll be able to get back for Game 1. We've got a couple days of practice here, so I've just got to keep making progress."

Ferland, who had 40 points (17 goals, 23 assists) in 71 regular-season games, skated on game-day mornings during the second round and practiced on April 30.

"I would hope that he would be ready to go, and probably the longer we wait the better for him, so that's good," Brind'Amour said.

Jordan Martinook left midway through practice. The forward has missed three playoff games with a lower-body injury, including Games 1 and 2 against the Islanders. He has three assists in his eight postseason games.

Practice Monday came after the Hurricanes spent the weekend off the ice while watching the Bruins and Blue Jackets extend their series to Game 6, and a possible Game 7 on Wednesday.

"Any time you can get a mental break, it's as important as the physical stuff," Brind'Amour said. "Hopefully we will see dividends."

The players did their best to take advantage of rare downtime during the postseason. Carolina had one day off between Game 7 of the first round against the Capitals and Game 1 of the second round against the Islanders, each of which was a road game.

McElhinney said he took his family to a Durham Bulls minor-league baseball game. Sebastian Aho said he and Teuvo Teravainen played golf at a par-3 course. Brind'Amour said he umpired his son's baseball game.

"Got away a little bit, and obviously right back yesterday and today trying to figure out a game plan for whoever we're going to see," Brind'Amour said. "It's not so important for me to be rested but it's real important for the guys to take the time."

The Hurricanes will try to find the balance between benefiting from rest and being fine-tuned for their first trip to the third round since 2009.

The Islanders had nine days between games after sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins and then were swept by the Hurricanes.

"The challenge is going to be to ramp back up at the right time," Brind'Amour said. "With the injuries that we're still dealing with a little bit, the time (off) is going to be good."

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