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Injuries force teams to adapt, push through in NHL playoffs

Mackenzie MacEachern went from joining the Carolina Hurricanes as a call-up from the minors to skating on the team’s top line in a road playoff game for a team struggling with injuries.
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Mackenzie MacEachern went from joining the Carolina Hurricanes as a call-up from the minors to skating on the team’s top line in a road playoff game for a team struggling with injuries.

“Obviously it’s a playoff game,” MacEachern said, “but it’s just trying to approach it like another game and try to keep my head straight.”

MacEachern’s multi-point performance in Sunday’s win against the New York Islanders illustrated how the test of the Stanley Cup playoffs isn’t just about the performance of top-line stars. It’s as much about how well teams manage injuries that sideline key figures such as Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Dallas’ Joe Pavelski or Minnesota’s Joel Eriksson Ek, who has yet to skate after just one shift in Game 3.

That’s opened the door for players like the Stars’ Tyler Seguin to take on bigger roles and keep their teams moving forward entering Tuesday’s slate of three Game 5s in the first round.

“At the end of the day, hockey’s hockey and there’s certain things that it doesn’t matter what your systems are that are universal,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said Monday. “At the end of the day, if you go out and play hard, you’ve got a chance.”

MacEachern tallied a goal and an assist in his team’s 5-2 win, an opportunity that came when forward Jack Drury — himself elevated to a larger role due to injuries — was knocked from the game on a hard hit into the boards by Ryan Pulock.

Carolina was already missing offseason trade acquisition Max Pacioretty and top-line forward Andrei Svechnikov, both out with season-ending injuries. It lost another top-line forward in Teuvo Teravainen to a broken hand in Game 2.

In Dallas, Seguin had two goals in Game 4, his first multi-goal popstseason game since 2011, as the Stars tied the series. That came with Pavelski still in concussion protocol after a Game 1 hit from Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, leaving his return uncertain even as he has begun skating.

“We need (Seguin), and I think he knows that,” Dallas coach Pete DeBoer said. “It’s a great luxury to be able to have a guy like Seguin playing in the depth of your lineup that, when someone goes down at the top, he’s played that role his entire career. He’s comfortable stepping in there.”

ISLANDERS at HURRICANES, Carolina leads 3-1 (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

The Islanders were called for eight penalties in their Game 4 loss. A repeat could end their season.

Islanders defenseman Sebastian Aho and center Brock Nelson both pointed to better discipline, including Aho saying he thought the team got distracted by the officiating.

“We’re trying to play hard, we’re trying to play physical,” Nelson said. “and maybe we’re crossing the line a little bit at times that we have to control our emotions a little more.”

KINGS at OILERS, series tied 2-2 (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

The Oilers have been going with rookie Stuart Skinner in net. The question is whether that continues for Game 5.

Skinner started all four playoff games but was pulled after the first period of Sunday’s Game 4 for Jack Campbell, who helped lead the Oilers to a 5-4 overtime win.

Skinner exited with his team down 3-0. Campbell, who was signed during the offseason to be Edmonton’s starter, allowed one goal with 27 saves the rest of the way.

“We have a good goaltending tandem and belief in both of them,” Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft said. “We’ll sleep on things and see where we’re at.”

WILD at STARS, series tied 2-2 (8 p.m. ET, TBS)

The Wild were livid about two penalties called on right wing Marcus Foligno in Game 4, one for interference and one for tripping.

Both of them turned into power-play goals by Seguin and the Stars, whose seven 5-on-4 goals in the series are the most in the playoffs. Dallas is second in power-play scoring at 43.8%, behind only Edmonton.

“We’re not going to change the way we play. That’s what we believe in. I think everybody does,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “It was a good hockey game. There wasn’t a lot of cheap stuff in that hockey game. They played hard. We played hard. They caught a couple of breaks. We did not.”

To his point, the Stars took four penalties, but the Wild didn’t convert until their final power play with 1:20 remaining to stand at 4 for 17 in the series.

“You’re never going to be be perfect, but we’ve got to be better. I think we know that,” said Wild right wing Matt Boldy, who is scoreless in the series.

TKACHUK FINED

The league fined Florida Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk $5,000 for cross-checking Boston forward Garnet Hathaway during Sunday’s Game 4 loss. Tkachuk received a minor penalty on the play at the end of the first period but his behavior was blamed for skirmishes throughout the game.