Canes' Jordan Staal expects no ovation in Pittsburgh

calexander@newsobserver.comOctober 7, 2013 

— Jordan Staal doesn’t 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 it’s 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 don’t 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.

“He’s been playing so well – actually, in training camp, as well,” Muller said Monday. “He’s a whole different player. He’s tough to play against, creating chances offensively (and) just playing a real solid, straight-line game.

“I think he’s going to feel good about his game this time going in.”

It’s the Canes’ top line, so consistently good last season, that’s off to a slow start. It’s as if Eric Staal’s 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.

“It’s kind of weird, obviously, with the way they clicked last year,” Jordan Staal said. “Obviously they’ll be fine. But it’s nice to know that when the big line is not going we can still win games. That’s what good teams need to have.”

Muller said some of the top line’s 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, they’re 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 it’s 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 line’s play.

“Are you saying we’re the ones who are no good?” he asked.

“No, we’re getting there. We were close (Sunday) night and I thought we had a few chances. We were just a fraction off.

“That’s going to come. We did miss some time in camp as a line and we’ve 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.

“We’ve 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. We’re developing some good habits. As for our line, our chances will come.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service