Stillman no stranger

Canes forward back in familiar surroundings

Staff writerFebruary 26, 2011 

Cory Stillman didn't arrive at the RBC Center on Friday promising to resuscitate the Carolina Hurricanes' power play or help Eric Staal pile up the points. Nothing that dramatic.

"I'm not coming in to change anything," Stillman said. "I want to come in and be part of the team. Just fit in and do whatever I can to help this team win."

Stillman said that after the Canes' morning skate, after taking the ice for the first time in three years wearing a Hurricanes sweater. Traded to Carolina on Thursday by the Florida Panthers, the former Canes forward was on Staal's line opposite winger Erik Cole on Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Staal, Stillman and Cole - sound familiar? It was that line that was so productive in 2006 when the Canes made their run to the Stanley Cup.

"Cory is such a cerebral player," Cole said. "Eric and I learned a lot from him. As a trio, we were able to figure things out between the three of us, but it had a lot to do with Cory and the way he thought the game. He helped us see things on the ice that he saw."

Most of the players from the '06 team are gone. So, too, many of the players in the Canes locker room in February 2008, when Stillman and defenseman Mike Commodore were traded to the Ottawa Senators.

Nor had Stillman, 37, played for Canes coach Paul Maurice. Signing a free-agent contract with Carolina in the summer of 2005, Stillman's coach in his time with the Canes was Peter Laviolette.

"It's so overwhelming," Stillman said after the skate. "But you come back, and you're familiar with the dressing rooms and stuff."

Staal was happy to see an old, familiar face back at the rink. In 2006, he had a career-high 100 points in the regular season, and Stillman had a hand in 34, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"I've played a good while with him, and obviously I know his game," Staal said. "For me it's exciting. He's a guy who usually looks to pass before shooting. I'm kind of the other way so hopefully he can find me in those areas.

"He has great vision for the game. Not only that but he'll stand in front of the net and be a disturbance for the goalie. There are different options for him on the power play. It's a nice addition."

In his return to the Canes on Friday night, Stillman played 17:49 and was plus-2. He was on the ice for the Canes' first three goals, including a first-period power-play score.

Stillman had a no-trade clause in his contract with the Panthers. But when Florida general manger Dale Tallon approached him about a trade to the Canes, Stillman said, "It didn't take a long time to decide."

"It depends where it was. Obviously as you get older you want to play in the playoffs and you want to win."

Cole and Stillman once were neighbors, and Stillman stayed with Cole and his family on Thursday night.

"We talked about different things, about how I think he'll make an impact with our team," Cole said. "Just a little synopsis on the guys and the room we have, the type of players we have in the room ... so that he'd come in feeling a little more comfortable.

"Not many here have played with him and don't know him personally. So it is a bit of a different group for him. But I think it will be an easy transition."

Cole smiled, adding, "It's nice to have an older guy in the room. Makes all of us feel a little bit younger."

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8945

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