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Canes defenseman Ian Cole was having a week.
A steady, stay-at-home defenseman with a pair of Stanley Cup rings who prides himself on preventing pucks from reaching his netminders, Cole suffered the cruelest of fates Thursday against Ottawa, essentially scoring an own-goal that led to a loss against the struggling Senators.
Saturday, Cole was again victimized, this time when a point shot caught him in the torso and ricocheted past keeper Antti Raanta to allow Buffalo to cut its deficit in half in the final minute of the first period.
“When pucks are going in the net when I’m on the ice, especially in my role, that’s less than ideal,” Cole said, “Some tough bounces there, but there’s really no other alternative but to keep playing, and keep going hard.”
Cole heeded his own advice, perhaps imparted some of that wisdom to his teammates, and even had a rare opportunity to atone in the best way possible: Cole scored Saturday, something he hadn’t yet done as a member of the Hurricanes. It’s also just his 27th NHL goal in 617 regular-season games. He also has one playoff goal in another 96 contests.
“I think I’ve had some chances to score this season, some good shots, some good chances, and they haven’t gone in thus far,” Cole said, “but it’s always good to score. It’s not my primary role, but, I’ve said this before, I think everyone in the NHL has to be able to do everything. Defensive defensemen need to be able to jump in and score, just like offensive defensemen need to be able to play defense.”
That total-team sentiment is particularly important for the Canes now. Carolina dressed just 11 forwards Saturday, and lost Trocheck to a 5-minute major and game misconduct penalty late in the second period.
Star sniper Andrei Svechnikov is sidelined with what coach Rod Brind’Amour said was a “finger issue,” and grinder Jordan Martinook left Thursday’s game with a lower body injury and is unavailable.
“We’re a MASH unit right now,” Brind’Amour said. “Andrei had a finger issue and needed to have it repaired, so he should be fine going forward. (Goalie) Freddie (Andersen) wasn’t feeling well, we have about four guys not feeling well. To get through this night with a win with all the guys sick and out, I’m pretty proud of the group.”
Brind’Amour clarified the illness Andersen and others are dealing with is not COVID-related.
Meanwhile, on defense, three players have dealt with COVID-19, including Bear, who returned Saturday, Tony DeAngelo and Brett Pesce.
“The two call-ups we brought up, Max (Lajoie) and (Jalen Chatfield) have played great, probably better than I expected, for me,” Brind’Amour said candidly. “We’re missing some all-star caliber players, those are big losses, and for those guys to step in, I think they’ve played as well as they could have, and it’s been a pleasant surprise for sure.”
“I don’t think there’s one guy that’s going to step up and replace, like, Tony DeAngelo or Brett Pesce, or (Ethan) Bear when he was out,” Cole added. “These guys are extremely good, and extremely elite players for us, so it has to be filling those holes by committee.”
The committee was successful Saturday, albeit against a struggling Buffalo Sabres squad, though as Cole was quick to point out, it doesn’t matter who the goals are against, just scoring at all might be what the team needed.
“We’ve been in kind of a scoring funk here, and the way they were able to erupt for six goals here … hopefully this bodes well going forward,” Cole said.
The Canes return to action Tuesday in Winnipeg as they begin another long road swing, this time across western Canada.