Carolina Hurricanes remain ‘upbeat’ and focused on improving after losing 5 of last 6

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Derek Stepan was the first on the ice Friday, as if eager to get started, eager to get back in the Carolina Hurricanes lineup.

Stepan was soon followed by Nino Niederreiter, who grabbed a bucket of pucks, set up shop in a circle and started firing shots. Soon, Brady Skjei, Andrei Svechnikov and others were out and ready for the Canes’ practice at PNC Arena.

What does a team do when it has lost five of its last six games? In the Canes’ case, they throw on their gear and go back to work. They prepare for Saturday’s home game against the Buffalo Sabres, putting a stinging 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators behind them. On to the next thing.

“I liked it. We had a good day, guys were upbeat,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said Friday. “They should be, really. Yeah, things haven’t gone our way, but they played really hard and certainly well enough to win all these games we’ve lost. There’s a lot of positives, and we’ve got to somehow just forget about what’s been going on here and keep the good things we’ve been doing and move forward.”

The Canes had 49 shots against the Senators and another 37 attempts that were either blocked or missed the net. That was a lot of rubber flying at Sens goalie Anton Forsberg, who finished with a career-high 47 saves.

“If we were losing and playing like crap, we have major issues,” Brind’Amour said. “But I feel like we’re right there, doing so many great things. I feel like it’s just a matter of time before pucks starting going in and we’re in great shape.”

Ottawa Senators’ Anton Forsberg (31) watches the puck go into his glove during the second period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
Ottawa Senators’ Anton Forsberg (31) watches the puck go into his glove during the second period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

The Canes (15-6-1) were without forward Jordan Martinook at practice. Martinook was injured Thursday during the Ottawa game and in some serious pain on the bench before being taken back to the treatment room.

Brind’Amour said Martinook continued to be medically evaluated Friday. Stepan, who has been a healthy extra the past five games, could slot back into the lineup Saturday and was used on a line with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Svechnikov in Friday’s practice.

Close to returning is defenseman Ethan Bear, who has been sidelined the past six games after being placed in COVID-19 protocol on Nov. 22. Bear took part in the morning skate Thursday and went through practice Friday, rotating in and out of defensive pairings.

Bear spent 10 days in quarantine in a California hotel after testing positive for coronavirus. He said he has “no idea” how he contracted the virus.

“Honestly, I feel pretty good,” Bear said Friday. “I thought it would be a little worse coming out of quarantine, but I’ve had a couple of practices under me and feel good.

“Quarantine is what it is. Ten days in a hotel room is not the greatest thing in the world. I’m happy it’s over with.”

Bear said he did little during his quarantine time but FaceTime friends and family, keep up with the Canes games and “try” to stay in shape as best he could.

“It’s as boring as it sounds,” he said.

Defensemen Brett Pesce and Tony DeAngelo remain in COVID protocol and will miss more games, even though Brind’Amour said both have had “zero symptoms from day one.”

“That’s frustrating for their part,” he said.

Carolina Hurricanes vs. Buffalo Sabres

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh

TV/Radio: Bally Sports South, WCMC-999.9 FM

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