The Islanders' Kyle MacLean celebrates his goal in Game 1 of...

The Islanders' Kyle MacLean celebrates his goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., last Saturday. Credit: AP/Karl B DeBlaker

RALEIGH, N.C. – Kyle MacLean didn’t come here for a homecoming or necessarily to reconnect with his past. But the Islanders rookie center and former Junior Hurricane couldn’t help but draw a large crowd around his locker prior to Monday night’s Game 2.

“I still have your ear buds, by the way,” said Hurricanes announcer Tripp Tracy, who hosted MacLean for a summer.

The 24-year-old MacLean’s father, current Islanders assistant coach John MacLean, served in a similar role with the Hurricanes from 2011-14 and the younger MacLean’s goal in the Islanders' 3-1 Game 1 loss on Saturday made him the first former Junior Hurricanes’ player – his 14-and-under AAA team – to score against the Hurricanes either in the regular season or the playoffs.

He was teammates with Skyler Brind’Amour, the son of Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour, who also helped MacLean train.

“I only played in Carolina for one year but I played with Skyler, he’s a good friend of mine,” said MacLean, who became the first Islander since Ryan Strome in 2015 to score in their postseason debut. “[Rod Brind’Amour] helped coach us and then in the offseason, too, a lot of skates with them. It was always really cool to see him around in the gym and on the ice, helping us out. He’s a great guy. A great resource to have.”

But MacLean said he didn’t take the time after scoring in the first period of Game 1 to look around to the people he knew in the building.

This is a business trip, after all.

“You’re trying to focus on the game,” MacLean said.

Naturally, Rod Brind’Amour didn’t have time to feel pride in MacLean’s accomplishment.

“Didn’t like seeing how he got us,” said Brind’Amour, before praising MacLean’s game. “I saw how hard he’s worked. Everything he’s doing right now, he’s earned it. It’s nice to see. Obviously have a connection with him over the years.

“He was here every summer training with Skyler. He has been for many years. We’re definitely good friends in the summer. Not so much right now.”

MacLean centered Anders Lee and Pierre Engvall on the third line in Game 1, elevated from his usual spot as the fourth-line center between Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck because Jean-Gabriel Pageau (lower body) was unavailable.

Pageau is a game-time decision on Monday, but coach Patrick Roy expects him to play.

MacLean, an undrafted free agent who played five seasons of junior hockey for Oshawa in the Ontario Hockey League, had four goals and five assists in 32 NHL games over two stints with the Islanders.

He was recalled from the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport for a second time on Feb. 21 and hasn’t been out of the lineup since.

His rapid development into an everyday NHL player allowed Roy to move longtime fourth-line center Casey Cizikas to Bo Horvat’s top line with Mathew Barzal to pair Cizikas’ dogged forechecking and puck retrieval skills with the elite playmakers.

MacLean’s energetic and physical style of hockey frequently has been compared to Cizikas, described by Horvat as a “dog on a bone” when it comes to pursuing the puck.

“What he’s done with his time here, what he’s proven to the team, to the organization, he’s a valuable player,” Cizikas said of MacLean. “He works extremely hard. He does all the right things. He’s already ready for whatever’s thrown his way. It doesn’t matter where you put him in the lineup, it doesn’t matter what his role is, he’s ready to play and he’s ready to push.

“And that’s the biggest thing. He’s got an engine on him. He’s got the work ethic and he’s got the skill. I see his game transforming and he’s getting comfortable with the way that he knows he has to play to be successful. He’s worked extremely hard to get this chance and he’s taken full advantage of it.”

MacLean said he takes the comparison with Cizikas as a compliment.

“When you’re young, you try to establish a role or how you’re going to make the next step,” MacLean said. “A lot of times, people told me to watch Casey and how he plays and the things that he does out there.”

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