Patrick Brown knew he would be in the playoffs, just not the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Brown, the captain of the Charlotte Checkers, was prepping for the AHL playoffs when he got called up by the Carolina Hurricanes to replace injured rookie Andrei Svechnikov.
Brown, a 26-year-old center from Boston College, got in his car after practice on Tuesday and drove up to Raleigh.
“It wasn’t too hard,” Brown said.
The Canes are hoping the same can be said for Brown’s transition into the simmering pressure-cooker that is this first-round series with the Washington Capitals. The tension has been cranked up with each game and it got a ugly on Monday during the Canes’ 5-0 win in Game 3.
Svechnikov, in his first NHL fight, was knocked out by Washington star Alex Ovechkin in the first period and briefly ended up at the hospital on Monday night. Svechnikov is in the NHL concussion protocol and when he will be able to return is unclear.
Forward Warren Foegele, who scored two goals in Monday’s win, will be moved up to Svechnikov’s spot on the second line with Jordan Staal and Justin Williams. The Canes are also expected to be without forward Micheal Ferland, who missed the final two periods of Monday’s game with an “upper body” injury.
“We lose two forwards that are in your top nine, top six, however you want to look at it, so that’s obviously not ideal,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Next man up. We’ve got guys we feel real confident in to be able to at least chip away at what we’re missing.”
Brown practiced Wednesday on the the fourth line, at left wing, with center Greg McKegg and right wing Saku Maenalanen. All three are familiar with each other from their time with the Canes’ minor-league affiliate in Charlotte.
“Brownie is a super-dependable player,” McKegg said. “You know what you’re going to get every game from him. He’s a great guy to have here.”
This will be Brown’s first NHL action since March 2017 but Brind’Amour has confidence that Brown can handle the playoff pressure.
“Really good character kid, he’s their leader down there in Charlotte; has been for awhile,” Brind’Amour said. “I just expect him to come work hard. He knows how to play the game. It’s not going to affect him, this stage and how big a game it is.”
Brown played in 14 games for the Canes during the 2016-17 season and has two points in 28 career NHL games.
He was called up in February, as a possible injury replacement, but didn’t play. He has had a strong season for the Checkers. Brown had 19 goals and 16 assists in 70 games.
The Checkers have best record in the AHL (51 wins, 110 points) and won their division. They open the playoffs on Saturday at Providence.
“We have a great team — goaltending, defense, offense, everyone contributed — and the results showed,” Brown said.
As much as Brown was looking forward to the AHL playoffs, he was ecstatic to get another shot with the Canes.
“It was crazy, just a regular practice day in Charlotte and I got the call,” Brown said. “I’m ready to go. I’m hoping to contribute in any way I can.”