Carolina Hurricanes’ Eric Staal glad to be back on the ice

calexander@newsobserver.comAugust 29, 2014 

— Eric Staal showed no lingering effects from offseason surgery Friday as the Carolina Hurricanes’ captain put in his first informal skate at Raleigh Center Ice.

Staal pushed himself at times on the ice, looking anything but tentative.

“I feel good,” he said. “I just want to continue to take steps before (training) camp opens and then look forward to the start of the year.”

Staal had surgery in late July for a core-muscle concern. Some referred to it as a sports hernia, although Canes trainer Pete Friesen said it was more of an abdominal wall injury.

“It was from training,” Staal said. “It wasn’t anything that was nagging. I felt it a little bit and took a week off from the exercise I was doing. I felt good the next week, then kind of really hurt it.”

Although surgery was performed in Philadelphia, Staal first flew to Raleigh for an MRI and evaluation. That also gave him the chance to talk with new Canes coach Bill Peters.

During a question-and-answer session with Canes fans at the team’s prospect conditioning camp in July, Peters noted Staal scored one power-play goal last season. He said that was “unacceptable” – not a slam at Staal, but more a condemnation of the Canes’ power-play structure last season.

“There’s no reason for that,” Peters said. “We’ve got to find a way to utilize him properly.”

Staal said his meeting with Peters lasted about 45 minutes and was productive, encouraging.

“I think he’s got a good plan for the individuals we have and will get the best out of everybody,” Staal said. “I’m excited to work with him and get an opportunity to be put in positions to be my best, and I’m sure it will be the same for the other guys.”

For now, it’s all about preparing for camp. Staal said he resumed skating 10 days ago after what he called the “hiccup.”

“It was frustrating,” he said. “At the time of the injury I thought I was in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”

It’s the second straight year Staal has dealt with a health issue in the offseason. A year ago, he suffered a serious knee injury in May while competing for Canada in the World Championships, resulting in months of intensive rehab.

Staal insisted the knee was near full strength when camp began but the effectiveness was missing the first few months of the season. He finished with 21 goals and 61 points, his lowest offensive numbers in a full season since his rookie season.

Staal said he decided to change his offseason training regimen. He and brother Jordan Staal of the Canes traveled to Darien, Conn., to consult with Ben Prentiss, who trains several NHL players including Canes forward Nathan Gerbe.

“You do some testing, and he personalizes the workout to each individual,” Staal said. “It’s really specified and has a diet along with it.”

For Staal, “diet” meant less carbohydrates and more lean protein. “I really liked it and saw the results right away,” he said.

As he approaches his 30th birthday in October, Staal no longer is the fresh-faced kid from Thunder Bay, Ontario, who was a big part of the Canes’ Stanley Cup run in 2006. He now has put in 10 NHL seasons and has served as team captain since inheriting the “C” from Rod Brind’Amour in January 2010.

Staal said he still embraces the role, the responsibility, of being the captain. He wants to be the guy who leads the Canes back into the playoffs after a five-year absence.

“Regardless of whether you wear a ‘C’ or not, most guys would say you’re the same person, that you don’t change or do anything different,” he said. “There is some administrative stuff or dealing with the coach you may do a little bit more as the captain. I enjoy that. I like the ability to get a feel from all the guys in the room as to certain things from the staff they can do better. So you do a little bit more of that stuff.

“But as a player and how you act on the ice, off the ice, whether you wear a ‘C’ or you don’t, you’re going to be the same. That’s the way I’ve been my whole life. So I enjoy being the captain of this team and working with the players we have.”

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

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