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Whether Svechnikov plays in Game 6 or not, his recovery still a good sign

Carolina Hurricanes’ Andrei Svechnikov talks for the first time about his fight with Alex Ovechkin: ‘I am not superhero’

Svechnikov who was sidelined this week with a concussion following the fight with Ovechkin talks with the media, he hopes to play in game six.
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Svechnikov who was sidelined this week with a concussion following the fight with Ovechkin talks with the media, he hopes to play in game six.

Whether Andrei Svechnikov plays Monday night or not – as hard as it is to believe he could make his way through not only the entire NHL concussion protocol but the Carolina Hurricanes’ own, more stringent protocol in a mere seven days – there was at least some good news out of this very ugly incident.

Svechnikov has handled the aftermath of Alex Ovechkin’s knockout blow last Monday about as well as could be expected by any 19-year-old, physically and emotionally, and even with humor.

His “I am not superhero” comment Saturday in response to questions about whether he asked for the fight with Ovechkin, as both Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals had claimed, managed to get his point across with a deft command of his second language.

“He did ask me first for fight,” Svechnikov said. “I am not superhero, ask first for fight. I said yes. Like I said, I just want to stand up for myself. He called me right after game, we talk a bit. I said sometimes happen, you never know.”

Svechnikov said later he came up with the superhero quip on his own, without any help from the Hurricanes’ media-relations staff. That was all him. While the Capitals were grumbling about Svechnikov and ripping him publicly after the fight – “A kid that kind of takes a lot of cheap shots and that kind of thing,” goalie Braden Holtby said – Svechnikov was smiling and laughing about it five days later.

Which is exactly what the Hurricanes expected from Svechnikov, the 20 goals as a rookie aside. They liked him as a player when they landed the No. 2 pick in last June’s draft, but they really fell for him as a person.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “The kid’s a special kid. He’s handled everything that has been thrown at him already, at a young age. He’s going to be great.”

This could have been a very bad week for Svechnikov, in a dark room somewhere reeling with the effects of his first concussion. By all accounts, he was generally asymptomatic a day later, although he said Sunday after a lengthy on-ice workout that his head still hurt a little, which would have seemed at that point to rule him out for Game 6 on Monday.

Still, that’s another good sign: Just as every concussion is different, every player reacts differently to concussions. Past performance is no predictor of future behavior, but the fact that Svechnikov shook this off so quickly may – may – bode well for his recovery facilities. One would prefer that hypothesis not be put quickly to the test.

But Svechnikov has pushed to get back in, going through a week of workouts and skating Monday morning for the first time without a yellow no-contact jersey. Whether that pregame skate counts as the required full-contact practice to clear him for return, only the Hurricanes and their doctors really know.

This much is certain: At this point, they’re the only thing holding Svechnikov back.

“If I’m going to go back,” Svechnikov said Sunday, “I’m going to play my game for sure.”

Sports columnist Luke DeCock has covered the Summer Olympics, the Final Four, 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.