No time like the present for your first career playoff start -- even if Curtis McElhinney has already spent 11 seasons in the NHL.
Yet, McElhinney has never began a playoff game between the pipes. That will change during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, with the Islanders trailing Carolina 2-0 in the series.
If the Islanders want any chance of leveling the series on the road, they'll need to get to McElhinney, who stopped all 17 shots he faced at the end of Game 2 -- a 2-1 Hurricanes victory Sunday at the Barclays Center -- first.
It was McElhinney's third playoff appearance. He relieved Carolina netminder Petr Mrazek, who started the first nine playoff games for the Hurricanes and is dealing with a nagging, but undisclosed, injury that forced him off the ice in Game 2 and will keep him on the bench. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said Mrazek is day-to-day and that the team doesn't expect a dropoff with McElhinney at goalie.
"I think what it is is a luxury that we have a guy that we have equal confidence in," Brind'Amour said, according to the Associated Press. "Thankfully, we have that situation. ... We have a guy that we all trust who's been good all year. It's not like we're hoping he's going to be good."