The Carolina Hurricanes may have suffered a huge loss in their second round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and it may have happened before they even played a single second of hockey in that series.
On Sunday after the Hurricanes were defeated in Game 1 of that series, head coach Rod Brind'Amour all but confirmed that the Hurricanes would not be seeing veteran forward Nino Niederreiter at all in this series presumably due to an injury he has suffered. What makes this situation somewhat confusing however is that it is not entirely clear how Niederreiter came to be injured or even when the injury would have occurred.
Here's what we do know. Niederreiter found himself riding the bench for the better part of 10 minutes in the Hurricanes 6th and final game against the Nashville Predators but at the time he wasn't the only player sitting so it may have been that Brind'Amour had simply decided to shorten his bench. Following that victory over the Predators, which was on Thursday of last week, Niederreiter was on the ice for practice with his teammates this Saturday but it was during that practice that he made an early exit from the ice. I suspect that this is the moment at which the injury occurred, but I must stress that I am only speculating based on the very limited information we have at this time.
One thing is clear, Brind'Amour's comments on the matter did not sound promising. The Canes head coach simply stated that Niederreiter is "very, very doubtful" to return at any point during the series. That kind of language makes it sound like this could be a problem that extends even beyond this current series, but again at this time we are working with limited information.
Nino Niederreiter has been a solid contributor for the Hurricanes this season with 20 goals and 14 assists for a combined total of 34 points over 56 games in the regular season and he finished with a very good plus minus rating of +20 as well. It will likely be impossible to replace his production in the middle of the playoffs but Brind'Amour was confident his team would battle through the adversity.
"Nothing has come easy for this group, ever. ... Everything they’ve gotten they’ve earned. ... We’re in the playoffs. We’re going to have to go earn every inch of ice we get and every goal. This group has always bounced back. I don’t expect anything different.”