Jaccob Slavin called Teuvo Teravainen the “mad Finn” on Tuesday, but the Carolina Hurricanes defenseman meant it in a good way.
It’s just that Teravainen, in what has been a disjointed season, after being sidelined with COVID-19 and then a concussion, is back and seemingly playing with a Finnish vengeance. He has as steely a glint as the winger can get in those blue eyes.
“All the guys, we’re just try to get him to smile,” Slavin joked. “When he’s playing good hockey, that’s when that’s happening. When he’s scoring goals we give him a hard time about trying to hold back the smile.”
Not only is Teravainen back, he’s on a line with Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov. It’s the line so many Canes fans have clamored to see and that opposing coaches and teams likely don’t want to face -- the band back together again.
Against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, Svechnikov had two goals and an assist. Teravainen had a goal and two assists. Aho had a pair of assists, making it eight points for the top line in a 6-3 victory that secured the Canes (36-10-7) home-ice advantage for at least the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“He makes players around him better, clearly,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said of Teravainen. “He has since day one being here. I think that was really evident tonight, obviously. He’s a big part of what we’ve got to do.”
Back in the lineup
After missing 32 of 33 games recovering from the concussion, Teravainen went back into the lineup April 27 against the Dallas Stars. In five games, he has three goals and three assists. Aho, who had a hat trick Monday against Chicago, has four goals and seven assists, and Svechnikov two goals and seven assists.
The Canes have a five-game winning streak. Yes, there is a correlation.
“Across the board for their line they’re so skilled and they’re so fast,” Slavin said. “That makes it even harder. They’re not the biggest, not the most physical line, but their hockey sense is through the roof and obviously their skill is with the best of them.
“You’ve got to try your best to take away their time and space and not let them come at you with speed. With their hockey sense it’s a tough task.”
Brind’Amour began the season with Nino Niederreiter on Aho’s line with Teravainen, and with Svechnikov playing on Jordan Staal’s line. The coach wanted more balance with the lines, and playing on Aho’s line did help quickly jump-start Niederreiter’s impressive bounceback season.
Then, COVID-19 issues. Teravainen, who had played 271 consecutive games, went into quarantine Jan. 19 and missed three games.
Once back, he played nine games -- with a goal and three assists against Columbus on Feb. 15 -- before being hit by Chicago’s Nikita Zadorov, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound defenseman, in the Feb. 19 game. The hit was clean and Teravainen left concussed.
Teravainen sat out seven games before playing March 4 against Detroit. With the state’s COVID restrictions eased, Canes fans again could attend at PNC Arena and many fans were excited to see Teravainen with Aho and Svechnikov.
At least for one game. Teravainen, saying he didn’t feel right, would miss the next 25 games -- a tough, challenging time for the Finn.
Teravainen says he feels ‘pretty good’
Teravainen scored his first goal since Feb. 15 last Thursday against Detroit at PNC Arena, his second game back. On Saturday, he scored when he stepped into a one-timer against Columbus, a shot that had a lot of that “mad Finn” in it.
“He’s so unselfish and we love him for that, but he’s got a good shot,” Brind’Amour said.
Teravainen’s goal Tuesday came on a quick shot between the circles after a pass from Aho. He earned his first assist by winning a faceoff on a set play that led to Svechnikov’s first goal, then the second with a quick touch pass out of the neutral zone to spring Svechnikov.
“I’ve played with ‘Turbo’ pretty much my whole NHL career and it’s always been easy to play with him,” Aho, who has a nine-game point streak, said Monday. “Andrei’s a great player, great skater, makes plays. It’s fun to play with them. I think we have pretty good chemistry.”
After Tuesday’s game, Teravainen was asked if he felt “100 percent back” in terms of his timing.
“I don’t know if I’m ever 100 percent,” he said. “I always want to be better. But I feel pretty good. Of course we have a couple more games, and these are good games for me to get to my game and get my feel for the puck. It’s been good, I think.”
Teravainen said that as if holding back a smile. As Slavin might say, that’s a good sign.
The Canes on Wednesday recalled defenseman Roland McKeown, who has been on loan to Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Hockey League, and assigned him to the taxi squad. McKeown played 24 SHL games.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Chicago Blackhawks
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh
Watch: BSSO (Bally)