Injured Hurricanes newcomer Max Pacioretty on teammates’ minds in return to practice

·3 min read

Brent Burns and Jaccob Slavin were on the ice together Wednesday at Invisalign Arena, two new teammates and soon-to-be defensive partners getting a feel for each other’s game.

But their minds also were on another new teammate — forward Max Pacioretty, who underwent surgery Wednesday morning in Raleigh to repair a torn Achilles tendon.

Pacioretty, like Burns, was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes last month. Once intense rivals in the NHL’s Pacific Division — Burns with the San Jose Sharks, Pacioretty with the Vegas Golden Knights — the veterans were looking forward to join in trying to help the Canes win a Stanley Cup this season.

Now, Pacioretty is out. The estimated recovery time is six months. It’s a setback.

“It’s tough, especially for a new guy coming in, Burns said. “Being in the same boat with him, you don’t know the city, the team. You just want to put your best foot forward and be around the guys, meet the guys, be in the trenches with them.

“The main thing is knowing he’ll be OK and he’s being taken care of. You just want him to be in a good place, the best place he can be.”

Burns shrugged off the notion that if such an injury had to occur that it came now, in August, well before training camp began and not, say, in January or February or later.

“There’s never a silver lining for something like this,” Burns said. “There’s never a good time for it.”

The timing will allow the Hurricanes to consider and make personnel moves, possibly look to swing a trade or sign a free agent. Or they could choose to go with what they’ve got in the early season and wait for Pacioretty’s return.

But it can be difficult for an injured player, especially those sidelined for an extended period. The team moves on, and has to move on. The injured player can feel isolated during his rehab, almost invisible as he watches his teammates go through practices, battle together in games, celebrate wins together.

“I think it will be important for all of us to keep him involved and bring him along and make sure he feels good,” Burns said. “It’s a long road and it’s not easy. None of us like to go through that stuff and it ain’t fun. It’s on everybody else here to make him feel good, or as good as you can, and keep him involved.”

Slavin figures to be a big part of that. An alternate captain, the defenseman together with the others in the Canes’ leadership group — captain Jordan Staal, alternate captain Jordan Martinook — will look to make the transition as smooth as possible. So, too, Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour.

“We’ve got a good organization here, we’ve got a tight group,” Slavin said. “We’ve got the right guys in the locker room to make sure he’s always in with everything. Roddy will do a great job with that.

“There’s never a good time to get injured, especially when you’re coming to a new place and getting in the swing of things. I know as a team we were looking forward to having him at the start of the year, as a great goal scorer, as a great player who was going to help us out. But hopefully, it’s a real quick recovery and he can be with us for the second half of the season.”

Slavin and Burns were the only two Hurricanes players on the ice Wednesday for an informal skate at the practice facility. But it seemed fitting. The two should form one of the NHL’s best defensive pairings, Burns adding some offensive flair and Slavin providing his solid all-around play.

All that sounds good to Slavin.

“I’m very excited,” Slavin said, smiling. “Great player, great guy. Obviously knows the game really well. So I’m excited to learn from him and be with him. I’ve only heard great things.”