Staal comfortable on wing, prefers center

03/28/2014 10:10 AM

02/15/2015 10:45 AM

A longtime fixure as the center on the Canes’ top line, Eric Staal has been used at times on the wing in recent games with Andrei Loktionov at center.

Not that the captain is complaining.

"I'm comfortable at both spots," Staal said this week. "I know 'Lokti' is, as well. We're reading off each other pretty well."

Staal continues to handle most of the faceoffs, taking 11 draws to Loktionov's one on Thursday in the 3-0 road win over the Florida Panthers. Staal also noted he has "gotten a lot of touches, which is nice."

But Staal, at 29, said he doesn't see himself beginning to play the wing more and more. He said he still prefers to be a center man.

"It's not just that I'm more comfortable at center but I think I skate better," he said. "I think I'm around the puck more. I think for me to be at the top of the top of my game, center ice is where I need to be.

"But as I said, I can play both, depending on the situation and where we are in a game or where we are within a lineup. I can play the wing, too. Whatever can help us win, that's where I'm going to play. That's all I want to do."

The line produced the Canes' first two goals Thursday as Jiri Tlusty scored twice. Staal had the primary assist on the first goal and Loktionov on the second.

Loktionov, who was traded to the Canes on March 5 from New Jersey, had a goal and assist in the Canes' 5-4 loss Tuesday to the New York Islanders. But the victory over the Panthers was a good bounceback game for the line -- Staal was minus-3 and Loktionov minus-2 againat the Isles.

"We've had some good chances to score," Loktionov said. "It's important for us forwards to play in the offensive zone and not in the defensive zone, so I hope we can keep playing better and better."

Canes beat writer Chip Alexander

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