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Hurricanes goalie Pyotr Kochetkov loses to Arizona Coyotes

Carolina Hurricanes' Brady Skjei defends as Winnipeg Jets' Sam Gagner to get a shot at goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Monday November 21, 2022.  (Fred Greenslade/The Canadian Press via AP)

Carolina Hurricanes’ Brady Skjei defends as Winnipeg Jets’ Sam Gagner to get a shot at goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Monday November 21, 2022. (Fred Greenslade/The Canadian Press via AP)


Pyotr Kochetkov’s four-year contract extension, announced on Wednesday, was well received by his Carolina Hurricanes teammates.

It was evident in the goalie’s reception in the locker room after the morning’s skating session at the PNC Arena.

It didn’t show that much on Wednesday night when Kochetkov made a surprise start against the Arizona Coyotes.

The Coyotes won 4-0 when Nick Schmaltz scored 66 seconds into the game, Lawson Crouse scored twice and Nick Bjugstad scored in the third period. Goalie Karel Vejmelka bounced with his third career shutout and made 36 saves.

Kochetkov made some high-profile and acrobatic saves but received no offensive support in what could be the Canes’ worst loss of the season. The power play was clean again – Andrei Svechnikov missed an open net in the first third – and there would be no late-game magic.

“We’re making it a little harder than necessary,” said captain Jordan Staal. “You could tell we were a bit flat. At some point we have to have emotions and go for it. Something has to change.”

Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour drew Kochetkov against Winnipeg on Monday with six minutes left and the Jets led 3-0. The Canes responded with three goals with the extra attacker to level the score before losing 4-3 in overtime.

Instead, Crouse scored his second from an empty net. The loss to the Coyotes (7-9-2) became the Canes’ 10th game loss in 20 games this season – Carolina is 10-6-4.

“We know for sure that we are in a difficult phase,” said Brind’Amour after the game. “We have to fight our way through that. We have to find a way to get the puck in the net.”

Goalkeeper Antti Raanta was supposed to start but was apparently injured on the morning skate. Another concern: Raanta did little during the pre-game warm-up and then didn’t take a seat on the Canes bench at game time.

Suddenly the situation is serious.

Goalie Frederik Andersen has not played against the Toronto Maple Leafs since November 6. He left the practice in the Invisalign Arena two days later and is said to have changed something.

But Andersen didn’t come back quickly. He was placed on injured reserve on November 11 and has missed the last eight games and his return is uncertain.

“He wasn’t on the ice and obviously that’s a big problem for us,” said Brind’Amour. “That’s your guy over there and he can’t play. But until he laces them up and practices outside…”

It will be Raanta and Kochetkov. And with Raanta injured and Andersen out, Kochetkov may have to start more games than anyone expected in the short term.

The announcement of Kochetkov’s extension — with an average payout of $2 million per season — was made while the Canes were on the ice Wednesday morning.

“He’s a great guy, always in a good mood and with a smile on his face,” said Canes center Sebastian Aho. “He has a great work ethic, on and off the ice. He’s just a competitor. He’s just fighting out there fighting to stop every puck.”

And smart. Aho said the description fits.

“Bright and a little crazy,” he said with a smile.

Kochetkov, 23, is still learning English. The Penza, Russia native is getting better and better at it but Svechnikov was due to act as translator on Wednesday to discuss his renewal.

“He said it was a big step in his life and he was very happy about it and grateful for Carolina’s trust,” Svechnikov said.

This confidence was built on a small sample set. Wednesday’s game was his eighth in the NHL, not including the four appearances he made for Carolina in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Kochetkov, a 2019 second-round draft pick for the Canes, was in the KHL in Russia before coming to North America last season. He had instant success with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL, 13-1-1 and later 5-1-1 in the Wolves’ run to the Calder Cup.

“He doesn’t have much experience, but he showed that he can play,” Brind’Amour said on Wednesday morning. “But it’s also the overall makeup of the player – his personality, his willingness to work hard and of course his skills. It’s nice to have him with us.”

This story was originally published Nov 23, 2022 9:39 p.m.

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In more than 30 years with The N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the beats of NC State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina and is now in his 11th season with the Carolina Hurricanes. A winner of numerous state and national author awards, Alexander covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was part of The N&O’s coverage of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run.

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