Eric Staal, Hurricanes dodge a bullet

calexander@ndewsobserver.comMay 18, 2013 

— Eric Staal’s diagnosis may been the best the Carolina Hurricanes could have hoped for, given the nature of his knee injury.

Staal underwent an MRI exam Saturday morning in Raleigh, which determined the Canes’ captain has a third-degree sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee. No surgery will be required, and Staal faces three months of physical rehabilitation.

Staal, competing for Canada in the IIHF World Championship, was injured Thursday in a quarterfinal game in Stockholm, taking a knee-on-knee hit from Sweden’s Alex Edler. The defenseman later was suspended for the remaining two games of the international event by the IIHF, which called the hit reckless and dangerous.

“I don’t know that ‘relief’ is the right word to use but we are thankful the injury was not any worse,” Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said Saturday. “It could have been better, but it wasn’t, but Eric has three months to rehab it and we’re hopeful he will be healthy and ready by the start of (preseason) training camp.”

Staal was injured late in the first period of the game against Sweden, which won 3-2 in a shootout. He returned to Raleigh from Stockholm on Friday night.

Edler, who plays for the Vancouver Canucks and is a former NHL All-Star, did not try to avoid the collision with Staal in the Swedish zone. Staal immediately fell to the ice in great pain, causing fears he might have suffered major structural damage to the knee.

Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward suffered a third-degree sprain – by definition, a tear – of his left MCL during a March 3 game at Florida. Ward, who did not have surgery, missed the remainder of the regular season but was skating again in the final weeks of the season.

“Eric’s injury isn’t identical to Cam’s, but I was told it’s pretty close,” Rutherford said.

Staal, 28, has been one of the Canes’ most durable players. He has missed just 12 games because of injury or illness in his nine NHL seasons, and has played a team-best 149 consecutive games for Carolina.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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