Not just the pig: Hurricanes aware of Hamilton but won’t hog credit

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Hamilton the Pig has somehow become an international viral sensation since appearing in the PNC parking lots before Game 3, which is the kind of random bizarre nonsense that happens in the playoffs.

The team has since become aware of its unofficial porcine good-luck charm – “he’s made it into the room, not like actually,” Justin Faulk said Saturday – and was aware that the ham was hitting the road for Game 7 in Washington, but wasn’t aware until Saturday that Hamilton stayed home for Game 1 of the second-round series against the New York Islanders.

Somehow, the Hurricanes were able to win 1-0 in overtime without him.

“I guess it’s not just Hamilton the Pig, huh?” Faulk said. “Some of the boys get some credit, too.”

Support for the team has been coming from all kinds of unexpected corners. On Friday, the Los Angeles Kings tweeted out a version of their logo tweaked with Hurricanes iconography – and it’s unusual to say the least for one NHL team to jump on another team’s playoff bandwagon.

The connection, of course, is Hurricanes captain Justin Williams, who was an essential part of two Stanley Cups with the Kings. (Williams was tagged in the Twitter post.)

“I did, I actually did see that,” Williams said. “That’s awesome. I have a lot of friends back there cheering for us. It’s great. I love it. But my role in it? I don’t know. It wasn’t provoked, no, but it’s certainly appreciated.”

THE WAY IT IS For Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour, one of the nice things about having a team this young and playoff-inexperienced is most of the players don’t realize that they’re not supposed to be this tired at this point. They just assume this is how it is in the playoffs.

“We’re young – well, some of us are – in shape and hungry,” Williams said. “It’s a good combination.”

That’s not the reality. Six games and four flights in 11 days with 35 minutes of extra hockey in back-to-back games is about as harsh as the grind gets, especially with three key forwards out of the lineup.

“Having such an emotional week, especially with getting that Game 7 win and coming over here, there’s not much to think about the next game,” Nino Niederreiter said. “You just got to play your game, and that’s what we did, and that helps us keep our minds fresh and our legs fresh.”

And if that weren’t enough, the Hurricanes are going from a double-overtime game to an overtime game to a 3 p.m. start on Sunday, taking another four hours of rest out of the equation.

The Hurricanes took the day off again Saturday, with just the injured players and healthy scratches going to the arena. They have hunkered down at the team hotel, conserving energy, staying quiet.

“This time of year, it’s more mental fatigue for me, than physical,” Brind’Amour said. “Obviously, you get nicked up and banged up. But there’s less travel and we have days off between games. Physically, it’s not as demanding as the mental grind. It’s as important to rest the mind as the body.”

DAY-TO-DAY-TO-DAY Brind’Amour said after Game 1 that Andrei Svechnikov had cleared the concussion protocol but needs a full team practice before he can return. The earliest that could happen is Tuesday in Raleigh ahead of Wednesday’s Game 3

Jordan Martinook remains a game-time decision for Game 2 after sitting out Game 1. Micheal Ferland continues to work toward a return.

“It’s day-to-day with all these guys,” Brind’Amour said.

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.