PITTSBURGH — Jordan Staal doesnt expect a standing ovation this time.
The Carolina Hurricanes will play their first road game of the season Tuesday, going into Pittsburgh to face the Penguins, and its strictly business for Staal.
It will be a little different this time, the Canes center said Monday.
For Staal, going back to Pittsburgh last season was emotional. After being traded by the Pens to the Canes in June 2012, Staal had to wait out the NHL lockout and then until the final game of the regular season in April to finally return to Consol Energy Center.
During a timeout early in the game, Pens fans welcomed him back with applause. Staal was a big part of the Pens 2009 Stanley Cup run and always a popular player. The Pens won the game 8-3, adding a final layer to the Canes late-season misery.
Staal laughed Monday when asked if he thought there might be another one.
I dont think so, he said. I think they already got that out of their system.
The Canes fought past the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 Sunday for their first victory and first win in the new Metropolitan Division. With the 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit in the opener, Carolina (1-0-1) picked up three of a possible four points on home ice.
Jordan Staal was a big part of that. Trimmer and quicker this season, and with a full training camp behind him, he has given the Canes strong two-way play in the first two games.
Hes been playing so well actually, in training camp, as well, Muller said Monday. Hes a whole different player. Hes tough to play against, creating chances offensively (and) just playing a real solid, straight-line game.
I think hes going to feel good about his game this time going in.
Its the Canes top line, so consistently good last season, thats off to a slow start. Its as if Eric Staals line with Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty has yet to mesh while the other three lines have formed a quick chemistry.
The line is without a point in two games. Eric Staal and Tlusty each have four shots on goal, but Semin does not have a shot.
Its kind of weird, obviously, with the way they clicked last year, Jordan Staal said. Obviously theyll be fine. But its nice to know that when the big line is not going we can still win games. Thats what good teams need to have.
Muller said some of the top lines problems were expected. Eric Staal had a serious knee injury in May that required extensive offseason rehab. Semin and Tlusty missed time in training camp with injuries, and Semin returned to practice just before the opener.
The important thing is the big picture, Muller said. Because of missing a lot of time, theyre not up to par right now, timing wise, conditioning wise. But we look at the positive side. We have nice depth right now on the other lines.
If those lines are going, we can take some minutes off of those (top-line) guys certain nights when its not their best night performing.
Eric Staal played a little more than 16 minutes against the Flyers. That was his lowest total since a 6-1 win against Atlanta in April 2011.
Eric Staal laughed Monday when a question was raised about his lines play.
Are you saying were the ones who are no good? he asked.
No, were getting there. We were close (Sunday) night and I thought we had a few chances. We were just a fraction off.
Thats going to come. We did miss some time in camp as a line and weve had two games so far. Now you want it to start clicking back together and feeling good.
For now, Eric Staal is feeling good about the Canes overall team game.
Weve played two tight-checking games against two good teams, Staal said. I thought as a group we played well defensively and played well without the puck. Were developing some good habits. As for our line, our chances will come.
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