Injured Hurricanes defenseman won’t return against Rangers in Game 6

Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

One overlooked factor to not finishing off the Carolina Hurricanes yet in the Eastern Conference Second Round is that the New York Rangers may have to face Brett Pesce before this best-of-7 series is completed.

However, if that’s the case, it won’t be in Game 6 on Thursday at PNC Arena.

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour ruled Pesce out after an optional morning skate.

The 29-year-old defenseman, a native of Westchester, NY, has not played since Game 2 of the first round when he sustained a lower-body injury against the Islanders, believed to be an ankle sprain. He was in a walking boot for the remainder of that series and resumed skating during the second-round series against the Rangers.

Pesce took a big step forward in his recovery on Wednesday, skating in a regular jersey at Hurricanes practice with Dylan Coghlan on a fourth pairing.

Brind’Amour was coy when asked Wednesday if he would bring Pesce back into the lineup if the defenseman was cleared and said he was ready to go.

“Definitely. You could. I’m not sure you would, but you definitely could,” Brind’Amour said Wednesday.

Before Carolina’s 4-1 win in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, Brind’Amour said this about Pesce: “A real kind of flow thing. He has to give us the green light. We’re definitely not going to push him into something he’s not comfortable with.”

And before this series started Carolina general manager Don Waddell said, “If everything goes as expected, he will play games in this round, maybe not right away.”

Related: Did Jacob Trouba just guarantee Rangers win in Game 6 against Hurricanes?

Brett Pesce could return for Hurricanes against Rangers in playoff series

NHL: New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Pesce’s absence has been felt in this series, especially on special teams where the defenseman is an important part of Carolina’s penalty kill. The Rangers scored four power-play goals in the first two games, though are 0-for-11 since. Still, Pesce plays a valuable role on the PK.

During the regular season, Pesce was second on the Hurricanes with 113 blocked shots and fourth in ice time per game (20:17). He had 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 70 games and one assist in two games against the Islanders.

Former Ranger Tony DeAngelo has filled in for Pesce on Carolina’s second defense pair with Brady Skjei, another former Blueshirt. DeAngelo has two assists in eight playoff games and is averaging 16:54 in ice time.

Though DeAngelo brings an edge and some offensive skill to their back end, the Hurricanes would be thrilled to have the defensive-minded Pesce back in the lineup.

The question, though, is Pesce close to 100 percent healthy? And how rusty might he be in a must-win game after not playing for two weeks?

That makes for a very difficult lineup decision for Brind’Amour. One he doesn’t need to make unless there’s a seventh game Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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