Canes hold breath awaiting severity of Eric Staal's knee injury

calexander@newsobserver.comMay 16, 2013 

The Carolina Hurricanes’ season was derailed, in part, thanks to knee injuries to goaltender Cam Ward and defenseman Justin Faulk.

Now, Canes captain Eric Staal is hurt.

Staal suffered an apparent knee injury Thursday in Canada’s quarterfinal game against Sweden in the IIHF World Championship in Stockholm. After taking a knee-to-knee hit from Sweden’s Alexander Edler, Staal fell to the ice, grimacing in pain and clutching his right leg.

Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said Thursday he was not sure of the severity of the injury. Rutherford said Staal will return to Raleigh on Friday and undergo an MRI on Saturday.

“It’s unfortunate and hopefully it’s not too serious,” Rutherford said. “If it is serious, hopefully there will be enough recovery time for him to be ready for next season. We’ll just hope for the best.”

It's believed Staal may have suffered a knee sprain and not a ligament tear.

Rutherford said he was not watching the game and had not seen a replay. He said Hockey Canada officials contacted him soon after Staal was helped off the ice, unable to put any weight on his right leg.

Canada lost to Sweden 3-2 in a shootout, ending its chances of a gold medal.

Staal, the Team Canada captain, was injured with 4:14 left in the first period. He took a shot, then was attempting to backhand the rebound from the left circle when he was hit by Edler, a Vancouver Canucks defenseman.

Edler was given a five-minute kneeing major and ejected from the game, throwing his stick in disgust as he left the ice. He might face disciplinary action.

The hit drew passionate reactions on Twitter.

Marc Crawford, a former player, coach and now analyst, called Edler “careless,” and described the hit as a “poor, poor judgment.”

Former Hurricanes defenseman Mike Commodore tweeted: “Wow was that a dirty hit on Eric Staal at the worlds. One of the worst I have ever seen.” He then called for a “lengthy suspension.”

Ward, the Canes’ No. 1 goalie, was lost to a third-degree knee sprain March 3 that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Faulk, who is playing for Team USA, missed nine games this season with a knee sprain. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen later was sidelined with a broken heel bone.

It has been a tough season for the Staal family. New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, Eric’s younger brother, suffered an eye injury March 5 after being hit by a puck.

Jordan Staal also is competing for Team Canada at Worlds. Carolina’s Staals were invited to join the national team after the Canes failed to reach the playoffs, and both hope to be considered for the Canadian Olympic team for next year’s Winter Games.

Eric Staal was a member of Canada’s gold-medal winning team in 2010 at Vancouver.

Rutherford said Eric Staal’s injury would not change his opinion on having his players compete internationally.

“They play for their countries,” he said. “Every kid grows up wanting to play for their country and nothing is going to change. Any time you can play for your country, you should.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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