RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Andrei Svechnikov looked comfortable as he skated with the Carolina Hurricanes to open training camp Thursday, sharing smiles and a few jokes — even a playful shoulder shove to Jordan Martinook despite wearing a yellow non-contact jersey.
The Hurricanes forward is still working his way back from a serious knee injury that sidelined him late in the regular season and playoffs. He was eager to get back to working with his teammates to start a season of being a Stanley Cup favorite, though he wouldn’t commit just yet to whether he’ll be ready for next month’s opener.
“Good chances, but I can’t promise anything to be honest,” Svechnikov said after the morning workout with Carolina’s top-of-roster players. “We’ll see how I’m going to feel in a few weeks.”
The status of the No. 2 overall draft pick from 2018 has been one of the key questions hanging over the offeseason for the Hurricanes, who have reached the playoffs for five straight seasons and claimed a division title in each of the past three. Last year’s run ended in the Eastern Conference Final against Florida, with Carolina being swept by four one-goal margins in a series with five overtime periods.
Svechnikov’s absence as a physical 6-foot-2, 195-pound presence loomed large in the Panthers series as Carolina struggled to generate more offense. He had suffered a torn right anterior cruciate ligament in March and needed surgery.
He was the first player on the ice for Thursday’s morning workout at PNC Arena. He went through the same strides as teammates to the point that the only thing calling attention to his presence was that yellow jersey, and there were no obvious limitations or signs of concern.
That included one conditioning drill with the team divided into two groups, stationed along the goal line at each end for multiple pushes to center ice and back. On the first, Svechnikov pushed to lead his group and finish first in the keep-those-legs-moving session.
“To me, he looks great,” center Sebastian Aho said. “Obviously with those things you have to be careful. You don’t want to risk it for coming back and all that stuff. It’s just so exciting to see him skate full speed and being back in the lineup.”
The question now whether be with his recovery time in terms of full contact. The Hurricanes open the regular season against Ottawa on Oct. 11 at home, then head west to start a six-game road swing that will keep Carolina off home ice for two weeks.
The good news is there’s time for “Svech” and the Hurricanes to sort all that out in the coming weeks.
“That’s more on him and our medical staff and training staff,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “When he feels 100% and they give him the green light, then he’ll be in the game. But until then it’s just a day at a time. He’s obviously out here practicing, which is a great sign.”