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Just the thought of a Game 7 can induce paralysis and nausea, although maybe more in fans than players.
But for the Carolina Hurricanes, Game 7s are old hat — kind of like the North Carolina State one that ‘Canes captain Rod Brind’Amour sported Wednesday.
Nine players, including Brind’Amour, remain from the Hurricanes’ 2006 Stanley Cup team that won a Game 7 in both the Eastern Conference Finals against Buffalo and the Cup Final against Edmonton (after losing Game 6 in Edmonton, mind you).
And then there was Carolina’s first-round series this year in which it defeated the New Jersey Devils in Game 7. On the road.
That’s 3-for-3 over the Hurricanes’ last two Game 7 playoff appearances as they head into Thursday’s contest (8 p.m. ET, TSN, RIS) at Boston, the conference’s top seed, in this conference semifinal.
“It gives us something to say, ‘We’ve been there before. We’ve done it,'” Brind’Amour said. “Every game takes on a life of its own. The fact that we know we’ve done it before, we can do it on the road. It’s not like one of those impossible tasks-type things.
It’s not just saying that. Sometimes you do. You’re down 3-1 in a series or 3-0 and you say stuff. And it’s ‘Yeah, whatever.’ This is real. We’ve done it and so we all believe it. So really, that’s what it comes down to is (that) guys believe they can do it and every guy here believes it.”
Belief. It’s something Carolina coach Paul Maurice has talked a lot about lately. In fact, it was the subject of his postgame talk to his team after losing Game 6 Tuesday, 4-2, at the RBC Center after the underdog Hurricanes started out with a 3-1 series lead.
Maurice said teams can learn from games that they have lost to help them win Game 7s. He said John Tortorella, who coached Tampa Bay to the 2004 Cup, told him for that Lightning team it was losing Game 5 at home that allowed them to win Game 7.
He is hoping that his team can draw from its experience in defeating New Jersey when Carolina rallied from down one goal in the final 80 seconds to tie and then win in regulation.
Asked to detail that pep talk — defenseman Tim Gleason said in a postgame interview that the coach’s words were inspiring — Maurice would only say, “I don’t know that I can pass that along. In generalities, the belief is the most important thing. So much of this is staying in the fight and if you just want to go by lessons learned, then you have to stay in it until the last minute and 20 (seconds) of a Game 7.”
And there seems to be no shortage of belief throughout the Hurricanes’ dressing room. Goalie Cam Ward, the ’06 Conn Smythe Trophy winner who could hardly be faulted for any of Boston’s goals in Game 6, looked relaxed, smiled and talked about enjoying the atmosphere in Boston.
“I’m excited,” he said very believably. “I think you have to be.”
Said Maurice: “We have enough players who have been there. In talking to players who went to the (conference) final and talking to the players who won the Stanley Cup, clearly here they all remember a Game 7 versus Edmonton. (But) there was always a game in the prior two months where they look back and say, ‘That was the one that propelled us.’ ”
One member of Carolina’s 2006 Cup team who has not played at all in this series is 35-year-old defenseman Frantisek Kaberle. Kaberle, who scored the ’06 Cup-winning goal in Game 7, played three games in the first round and could be in the lineup Thursday instead of Anton Babchuk, who had a difficult Game 6.
Maurice refused to rule out that Kaberle would play and when he would only say, “We’ve got some decisions we’ll make on our lineup” and that Kaberle’s status fell under the category of a “good question.”
Having the luxury of an experienced player like Kaberle and a captain like Brind’Amour is one factor on Carolina’s side. The respected Brind’Amour said now is the kind of time when he could assert some vocal leadership.
“It’s a little different now,” Brind’Amour said. “We hear voices every day. We have meetings every day. Sometimes it gets overdone. So you have to be careful. We talk as a group before games and a lot of times it’s just the little things to keep you on the right track.
“Today’s a good day to just go through each guy and see how they’re doing and making sure everyone’s in the right frame of mind as opposed to making any big thing. We know what’s at stake.”