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With Niederreiter out for an extended period, Hurricanes could shuffle lineup

The Carolina Hurricanes went from expecting Nino Niederreiter to play in Sunday’s Game 1 loss to the Tampa Bay LIghtning to not expecting him to return in the series, apparently the result of an MRI exam after he left Saturday’s practice early.

“Very, very doubtful for the series,” Brind’Amour said after Sunday’s game.

Niederreiter had one goal and no assists in the first-round win over the Nashville Predators.

With Niederreiter out, Cedric Paquette made his postseason debut for the Hurricanes against the team he won the Stanley Cup with last September, but was not particularly effective. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Morgan Geekie get a chance on the fourth line Tuesday, although the Hurricanes’ bench options are thin.

Jake Gardiner might get a look on defense as well. Jake Bean, who scored the desperately needed power-play goal by the second unit, struggled with the pace of the game at even strength. Gardiner hasn’t played since Game 2 of the first round, but the Hurricanes can protect Gardiner’s matchups at home.

“We think about it all the time,” Brind’Amour said Monday. “Those are discussions we have daily. whether we make those switches now or in the future, it’s a good possibility for sure.”

One switch not expected: Despite Sunday’s game-winner, Alex Nedeljkovic has more than earned the chance to redeem himself and will almost certainly start again, although win or lose the Hurricanes might be smart to give Petr Mrazek a shot on the road in Game 3.

“I didn’t even talk to him,” Brind’Amour said. “We all make mistakes. We all have things we wish we could do back. That’s not going to affect how I think of him or how the guys think of him. We have a lot of trust in him.”

‘The puck had eyes’

Even the Lightning seemed surprised to have won the game on Barclay Goodrow’s goal that slipped past Nedeljkovic at the post. Goodrow said he was just putting the puck on the net from a bad angle hoping to generate a rebound for Yani Gourde, who was charging down the slot.

“The puck had eyes, obviously, but good things happen when you shoot the puck and that’s a good example of it,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said.

Bolts down two D

The Lightning were missing two of their normal top-six defensemen for most of Sunday’s game. David Savard was a surprise absence to start the game and Erik Cernak left the game in the second period after getting sandwiched by Vincent Trocheck and Andrei Svechnikov behind the net and did not return.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he expected Cernak to play in Game 2 and Savard is day-to-day. Luke Schenn filled in for Savard on Sunday.

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Sports columnist Luke DeCock has covered four Final Fours, the Summer Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. He joined The News & Observer in 2000 to cover the Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a columnist in 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has won multiple national and state awards for his columns and feature writing while twice being named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.



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