Canes weigh Staal's injury, possible trades

Staff writerFebruary 28, 2011 

— The Carolina Hurricanes have two priorities today: Eric Staal's health and potential trades.

And in that order.

Though today is the NHL trade deadline, and the Canes could be looking to add a defenseman, the biggest issue to be resolved is how well Staal has recovered from an upper-body injury suffered Friday in a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Staal, looking to take a shot, absorbed a big hit from the Pens' Matt Niskanen, did not play in the third period and did not make the trip to Montreal for Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Canadiens.

General manager Jim Rutherford said Sunday that Staal was undergoing tests Sunday and today to determine if he can return to the lineup for Tuesday's game against the Florida Panthers.

"Eric has had conversations with a couple of people and is feeling pretty good," Rutherford said in an interview. "We'll have the testing ... and see what happens. We'll have a better understanding after that."

Canes coach Paul Maurice said Saturday that he expected Staal, the Canes' captain and leading scorer, to return against the Panthers. While saying he was not sure where the biggest impact of the blow occurred -- Staal appeared to be hit on the chin, chest and knee -- Maurice said he did not believe Staal had suffered a concussion.

"That was a pretty good check [by Niskanen]," Rutherford said Sunday. "The doctors will check all areas, but the biggest thing obviously is making sure the head area is OK."

While hoping for the best on Staal, the Canes (29-25-9) may look to make a move or two today before the 3 p.m. trade deadline. A year ago, the Hurricanes were among the league's busiest teams at the deadline.

The Hurricanes recently acquired defenseman Derek Joslin in a deal with the San Jose Sharks and traded Thursday for Cory Stillman, a veteran forward who helped Carolina win the Stanley Cup in 2006. Stillman, obtained from the Panthers, scored Saturday in the loss at the Bell Centre.

Rutherford said today shouldn't be nearly as hectic as last year.

"I do not think it will be an overly active day for us," he said. "We've already added one player in Cory [Stillman], and that has balanced out our top 12 [forwards].

"If we're going to add anything, it would be ... adding depth to our defense. I like the team we have. But we're like a lot of other teams. If we see a chance to add another defenseman to add to our depth, we will consider that offer."

The Hurricanes placed defenseman Brett Carson on waivers Saturday and needed him Saturday night when defenseman Jay Harrison felt ill before the game. If Carson clears waivers today, he should be reassigned to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.

Joslin had two assists and a plus-3 rating Friday against the Pens. He was active and physical, once going nose-to-nose with Penguins tough guy Matt Cooke along the boards.

"I've been very, very pleased with his play," Rutherford said. "He's a young guy who had not had a chance to play a lot this year [with the Sharks]. He's been real impressive."

The Canes, without Staal, were not able to pull out a road win Saturday. Carolina was 0-for-4 on the power play, while the Habs scored the winning goal late in the game on their only power play.

The Canes' Jeff Skinner was called for holding defenseman P.K. Subban with 5:50 left in regulation. Andrei Kostitsyn then redirected a shot by Roman Hamrlik past goalie Cam Ward with 3:53 remaining.

Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu scored for the Canes, and Stillman's goal at 10:49 of the second tied the score 3-3. The Canes' offense was more effective after some line changes in the second period that included Skinner centering the top line with Stillman and Erik Cole, and Ruutu at center with Chad LaRose and Jerome Samson.

"Five on five, I think we played a really good game and had enough chances to score four or five goals," Jokinen said. "Obviously, our power play wasn't as good as we had hoped."

Jokinen and the others are hoping Staal will be back quickly.

"Eric's the big dog for a reason," Maurice said.

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

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