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Hurricanes avoid major injury for DeAngelo, Pesce could be face Rangers

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The Carolina Hurricanes have avoided a major injury concern for defenceman Tony DeAngelo while veteran blue-liner Brett Pesce is nearing a return from a lower-body injury suffered in the second game of the NHL playoffs.

Team president and general manager Don Waddell said Wednesday that Pesce has shed a walking boot and is doing work to return and should play at some point in the second-round series against the Presidents' Trophy-winning New York Rangers.

“If everything goes as expected, he shall play games this round," Waddell said in a Zoom call with reporters. "Maybe not right off the start, but will play games in this round.”

Pesce came up hobbled in a non-contact situation in Game 2 of the first-round series win against the New York Islanders and didn't play again. DeAngelo took Pesce's spot opposite Brady Skjei on Carolina's deep blue line, only to exit late from Tuesday's Game 5 clincher after taking an uncalled slash to the arm from Pierre Engvall near the boards.

Coach Rod Brind'Amour, who had praised DeAngelo's play in jumping into the lineup, expressed concern afterward while saying the defenceman in his second stint with the team was having X-rays. But Waddell said Wednesday those came back clear.

“He's feeling better today so that shouldn't be an issue at all," Waddell said.

DeAngelo had worked in the top pairing with Jaccob Slavin in his first stint with the team in 2022. This time, he had been a fill-in for Carolina's strong top six, which typically has Slavin working with Brent Burns, the Pesce-Skjei combination and last summer's signing, Dmitry Orlov, paired with Jalen Chatfield.

He had played just 11 of 45 regular-season games since the start of 2024 before jumping in for Pesce. DeAngelo has been minus-1 with Carolina through three playoff games while playing 17:17 of ice time, tallying eight shots and taking a 2-minute roughing penalty in Game 5 after Anders Lee crashed the net while knocking Skjei into the goal and bumping netminder Frederik Andersen.

DeAngelo went after Lee, and Andersen even joined DeAngelo in that post-whistle tussle behind the net.

“When I'm in there, I'm looking to be in there to make a difference,” DeAngelo said a day earlier. “Be a part of what's going on, part of the scrum, part of the chirping — whatever it may be. That's the way I kind of roll with my game. It makes me play better.”

The injuries have certainly made Orlov's signing even more valuable after it seemed almost like a luxury addition at the time for a team with established veterans at the position. Orlov scored in Game 3 against the Islanders and is averaging 21:25 of ice time in five playoff games.

“It might have been a luxury when we started the year,” Waddell said. “But we also know it's a long year and you're going to run into situations like we're in now. And to have a guy like that be able to step up and play the minutes he's playing is a big benefit for us.”

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AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://apnews.com/hub/nhl