The Carolina Hurricanes stood in a hallway in Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night, bouncy, energetic, the players pumping up each other for the road game against the Nashville Predators.
And especially Jordan Martinook. He’s always pumping up Andrei Svechnikov. Picture Bundini Brown before a Muhammad Ali fight in the old days, the ebullient cornerman screaming, “You the champion of the world!” as Ali entered the ring.
A video clip tweeted Tuesday by the Canes shows Martinook, his voice rising, saying “Mister Svech-ni-kov,” slapping gloves with Svechnikov and then shouting “Come on, Svech!” as they took the ice. It’s a pregame ritual, something Martinook has done since Svechnikov was a rookie.
There could be variation Thursday. Martinook might simply look over and shout, “Two Svech-ni-kovs?”
For the first time, Andrei Svechnikov and Evgeny Svechnikov could play against each other in a hockey game. The two are brothers and the closest of siblings, often together when not playing hockey and on the phone every day, Evgeny says. But never hockey opponents.
Evgeny Svechnikov, 24, is the oldest. A first-round pick by the Detroit Red Wings in 2015, the forward had his NHL career interrupted by a serious knee injury in October 2018. But he has been in the Red Wings’ lineup the the past three games and is expected to play Thursday when the Wings (7-15-3) and Canes (15-6-1) face off at PNC Arena — two No. 37s on the ice.
“It’s going to be a special day, a special game,” Evgeny Svechnikov said Wednesday on a Wings zoom interview. “I talked to my dad today and said. ‘Can you imagine, It’s been almost 20 years we’ve been counting (down) to this day.’ ”
Andrei Svechnikov, who turns 21 next month, was the second overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas. He jumped into the Canes lineup at 18 and has become one of the league’s best young power forwards, at times the talk of the NHL with his lacrosse-shot goals and other dynamic plays.
“I’m proud, first of all,” Evgeny said. “I’m amazed how big of a jump he made and became a star in this league. The goals he scores is just fun to watch. And how hard he plays and what a team player he is, I’m just proud.
“He works hard. He’s such a humble kid. I’m just proud and excited and hope he continues the journey.”
Here’s an interest twisting to the brother-vs.-brother story line: Evgeny Svechnikov has two goals in his last three games. Andrei Svechnikov has one goal in his past 14 games, an empty-netter Feb. 20 against Tampa Bay. He last beat a goalie to score Feb. 4 in Chicago, which was his sixth goal in the Canes’ first eight games.
Andrei Svechnikov’s goal drought has been puzzling, although Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said not troubling. Add in defenseman Dougie Hamilton’s lack of goals — one in 22 games — and that’s two of the Canes’ biggest goal producers of last season stuck in neutral when it comes to finding the net.
“Any goal scorer gets frustrated when they don’t score,” Brind’Amour said Monday on a media call. “You actually get more frustrated when you have chances that don’t go in. (Svechnikov) has had quite a few good looks. I think it’s just a matter of time.”
And the same with Hamilton, Brind’Amour said.
“He’s had good looks and they just haven’t gone in,” Brind’Amour said. “I think it’s a matter of time for those guys. They’re competitive. They want to score, so they naturally get frustrated. I think that’s normal.
“You just don’t want it to bleed into other areas of their game where they’re starting to look for the offense at the expense of playing good hockey. And they haven’t done that.”
Svechnikov has gotten his shots — 35 in the 14 games — and has seven assists in those games (Hamilton has a team-leading 13 for the season). The Canes have gone 9-4-1 in those games, beating the Predators 4-2 on Tuesday to end their five-game road trip with three consecutive wins.
Svechnikov, interviewed before the season, said it has always been “our little dream” for the two brothers to play in the same NHL game. With the Canes and Wings in the Central Division, that meant eight possible meetings this season.
When the Canes and Red Wings opened the season with two games in Detroit, Evgeny did not play. This time, he should, although Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill would not reveal his lineup on Wednesday.
“Evgeny is a great person, and I’m certainly aware how much it would mean to him,” Blashill said. “I know how much his family means to him, how much his brother means to him.”
The one downside for the brothers: Their parents are in Russia and must watch from afar.
“It’s going to be so much fun,” Andrei Svechnikov said in early January, smiling. “If I’m on a shift against him I’ll try to hit him or something. We’ll see.”
One can almost hear Martinook: “And in this corner, An-drei Svech-ni-kov ...”