Goalie Petr Mrazek’s best job reference last summer came from the man who decided he wasn’t the right answer for the Detroit Red Wings.
“I remember calling (Detroit GM) Ken Holland and he said, ‘When Petr gets on a roll, he can carry your team for five or six games,' ” Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said.
Waddell signed Mrazek as a free agent last summer, and the goalie has won seven of his last eight starts (.946 save percentage, three shutouts during that span) to help the Hurricanes strengthen their hopes of qualifying for the playoffs for first time since 2009.
“I give Petr a lot of credit, because when we talked last year, he said, ‘Don, it’s not about the money – it’s about being in the right spot to have the opportunity to compete for playing time,'" Waddell recalled. That’s what you want to hear.”
Mrazek volunteered to take a one-year contract for $1.5 million if Waddell would give him a chance to be a No. 1 goalie.
The Hurricanes are 13-3-1 in their past 17 games and have been a spirited group, leading to a 12 percent jump in attendance.
“The way the league is now, you know things aren’t always going to go your way,” Waddell said. “The key is how you bounce back when that happens. And that’s where we’ve been good the last 30 games. We got spanked in Winnipeg when we played our worst game of the year and then we bounced in Nashville in a pretty tough environment with one of their better games of the year.”
Carolina boasts many contributors. Dougie Hamilton’s 10 goals since Jan. 1 are the most by any league defenseman. With 77 points in 69 games, Sebastian Aho might be one of the league’s most anonymous superstars. Rod Brind’Amour will get Coach of the Year votes.
The Hurricanes’ path to the playoffs doesn’t get easier. From March 19 to April 2, they play Washington twice, Pittsburgh twice and Tampa Bay and Toronto once.