RALEIGH, N.C. — Just days before the season began, Curtis McElhinney wasn’t even in the conversation about the Carolina Hurricanes.
Now he’s emerging as the team’s top goaltender.
He’ll likely have another chance to prove his worth Friday night against the visiting Anaheim Ducks at PNC Arena.
McElhinney holds a 7-2-0 record in nine games. This is the first time in his career that he has started in as many as nine games in a season prior to December.
“He’s a pro, you could tell. We said that Day 1 that we got him,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said of McElhinney, who was claimed off waivers right before the regular season. “Whatever you throw at him that wasn’t ideal, he handles it.”
The Hurricanes have won four of their last five games, with McElhinney in the nets for each of the victories, including a 2-1 decision Tuesday night at Montreal.
“Where the goalie just stole the game,” Brind’Amour said. “We need that sometimes. We all know how important that position is.”
McElhinney, who has played in 195 career games, tied his career-high with 48 saves in the Montreal game. The other time when he was so busy was with Columbus in an April 2015 game.
“It feels good. It’s all about building something here now,” McElhinney said. “Things start rolling and people get excited about it.”
Carolina goalies Petr Mrazek and Scott Darling are a combined 5-7-3 in 15 games. Darling, who was projected to be the team’s top goaltender this season, was placed on waivers Thursday.
The Ducks, who’ve also won four of their last five games, will be in their fourth game of a season-long five-game road trip.
“You’ve got to feel good about ourselves a little bit, but we’ve got lots of room for improvement,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, whose team won on back-to-back nights this week at Tampa Bay and Florida.
The Ducks turned to two goalies for the victories in those games.
Miller moved into 17th place on the NHL career wins list with his 373rd victory when the Ducks defeated Tampa Bay. He’s within one victory of matching John Vanbiesbrouck for the most by a U.S.-born goalie.
The Ducks had their mothers along for the first three games of the trip. The phase of the trip has concluded.
“She’s good luck, I guess,” left winger Nick Ritchie, who scored two goals Wednesday night at Florida, said in reference to his mother.
Carolina defenseman Jake Bean made his NHL debut Tuesday night and could be in line for his first regular-season game at home.
“He was fine. He came in there and made a couple nice plays,” Brind’Amour said of Bean. “It was a good first game for him.”
The Ducks won both meetings last season with Carolina and hold a four-game winning streak in the series. They’ve won in their last four visits to Raleigh.
The teams meet again next Friday night at Anaheim.