Jordan Staal, Eric Staal

Canes coach says Staal brothers will begin on same line


It’s a great story to see Jordan Staal and Eric Staal united on the Carolina Hurricanes, but not every sibling combo can click like the Stastny brothers once did and the Sedin twins do now. Still, Canes head coach Kirk Muller told Chip Alexander that he’s going to see if the two find on-ice chemistry by pairing them on the same line — at least initially.

“I think that’s the great opportunity with training camp, is to experiment,” Muller said. “We’ve got lots of (preseason exhibition) games. The first initial thing, right now, we definitely want to give them an opportunity to play together in those games and see if there’s chemistry.”

“Lots of times, until you put guys together … you know, you’ve got to get a feel for it. I know they have a little history from before. But I think it makes sense right now to start off with them and see how they work together.”

Who should play center?

Honestly, I’ve often thought of Eric Staal as a weak guy in the dot, but he managed an above-average 52.5 winning percent in 2011-12, better than Jordan’s 51 mark. Still, faceoff skills are far from the only concern when determining which player should take the center spot (their preferred position).

Both have some limited experience on the wing, so Muller might mull over* giving both a shot. Eric’s been in Carolina longer, is the superior offensive force and is the older brother (you can rank those factors in whatever order you’d like). Meanwhile, Jordan’s generally believed to be the better checker, which certainly matters considering the fact that center is the forward position with the most defensive responsibility.

Who plays with them?

A more intriguing question is: who do you line up with the Staal brothers?

Do you load up on the top line with cerebral youngster Jeff Skinner? Add a thrashing power forward like Tuomo Ruutu to the mix or opt for Jussi Jokinen’s hot-cold creativity? Or maybe go off the board a bit with a depth guy like Chad LaRose or Anthony Stewart to diversify your offensive threats?


Feel free to share you hypotheses, even if Muller’s free to experiment with all different kinds of combinations. If nothing else, it’s more fun to mess with these ingredients than what he had before.

* – Sorry.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
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DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.