Hurricanes goaltender Kochetkov propelled into Metro Division race
Two weeks ago, the Carolina Hurricanes traveled to Madison Square Garden in New York and beat the Rangers 4-2.
Frederik Andersen was the starting goaltender and made 28 saves. Rookie forward Seth Jarvis had a goal and an assist in his first game in the Garden. The Canes came away with a four-point lead over Rangers in the Metropolitan Division.
That was then. Think about it now.
The Canes and Rangers face off again Tuesday at the Garden, with Carolina (52-20-8) still holding a four-point lead in the subway and in position to clinch the division with a victory.
The possible starting goalkeeper of the Canes: Pyotr Kochetkov.
Goalkeepers’ outlook: a bit confusing.
Antti Raanta’s injury Sunday against the New York Islanders was another blow for the Hurricanes. Andersen left the April 16 road game against Colorado with a lower body injury and Raanta’s lower body ailment in Sunday’s game caused the potential worst-case scenario for Carolina – starting the playoffs Stanley Cup next week with both veteran goaltenders out and injured.
Kochetkov, 22, has apparently been a hugely popular call-up among Canes players, earning quick acceptance. Recalled from the Chicago Wolves of the AHL last week, he stepped in on Saturday and made his NHL debut winning as the Canes beat the New Jersey Devils in overtime – then spent a lot of time in the locker room celebrating wildly with the rookie.
“He was great,” said forward Nino Niederreiter. “It’s certainly not easy for him to come here. He does not speak English. But he was great in there. I’m glad we got the win for him.
It was Raanta’s turn to enter the net on Sunday against the Islanders, but it was obvious around 12 minutes into the second period that he was working and needed to get out. Kochetkov came on again, stopping seven of eight shots, closing out the 5-2 win on the road.
“The kid looks great,” Canes captain Jordan Staal said after the game.
Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said the hope is that Raanta’s injury isn’t that serious, and more will be known on Tuesday when the Canes hold their morning practice in New York. Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada tweeted on Monday that Raanta may have had a cramping issue on Sunday and will be able to support Kochetkov.
Andersen’s status will also be reassessed this week, and there’s a feeling he could return for the playoffs — the Canes only have one home game Thursday against New Jersey in the regular season after Tuesday.
The Canes drafted Kochetkov in the second round in 2019, believing he had the size and ability to become an NHL goaltender. They brought him to North America once the 2021-22 KHL season ended in Russia to offer him games with Wolves.
Good timing. Kochetkov was an immediate success, being named AHL Rookie of the Month for March, playing with passion and panache. With Chicago guards Alex Lyon and Eetu Makiniemi injured, he was the best option for Carolina when Andersen came out.
If the Canes were to recall another goaltender from Chicago, it would be Jack LaFontaine and would be part of a wild ride this year – from NCAA to NHL to AHL to ECHL and back to AHL. The Canes signed him to an entry-level contract with the University of Minnesota on Jan. 9 and quickly gave him his first NHL start at New Jersey on Jan. 22. on the way to Chicago.
LaFontaine played 12 games for Wolves and made 27 saves on Friday in a 4-2 road win over Grand Rapids.
The Canes did not hold practice Monday in New York. Nor did they proceed with a recall of the miners.
It could be two Russians in goal at Garden time – Kochetkov for the Canes and Igor Shesterkin for the Rangers. Yes, it’s been about two weeks.
This story was originally published April 25, 2022 4 p.m.