RALEIGH, NC - DECEMBER 27: Eric Staal #12 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PNC Arena on December 27, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Penguins defeated the Hurricanes 4-3. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

Streaking ‘Canes return captain Staal, Tlusty and Nash vs. Calgary


Winners in five of their last six, the Carolina Hurricanes kick off a three-game homestand tonight against the Flames — and they’ll do it in style.

Captain Eric Staal, out since Jan. 4 with an injury, will return to the lineup, as will forwards Jiri Tlusty (appendectomy) and Riley Nash (lower body), according to ‘Canes web producer Michael Smith.

Staal, tied with Jeff Skinner for the club’s scoring lead with 35 points, has recovered sufficiently enough from his lower-body ailment to help the ‘Canes in their playoff push. Despite a setback in Columbus on Saturday (3-0 loss), the ‘Canes — who were 14-16-9 on Dec. 29 — have pushed to within two points of Detroit for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and three back of the Rangers for third in the Metropolitan Division.

Tlusty, who scored a career-high 23 goals last year, has just 10 points through 37 games this year but will add depth to a forward group that’s been banged up as of late. Nash, a former first-round pick, seems to have found his niche in Carolina as a two-way checking forward — he’s notched a career-high 10 points this season and was averaging nearly 12 minutes per game prior to getting hurt.

Stamkos strikes; Lightning take care of Sabres

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Steven Stamkos had been shut out for the first five periods (plus overtime) of the season, but that drought didn’t last much longer.

Stamkos scored his first of the year in Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

The 25-year-old buried a rebound past Buffalo’s Chad Johnson at the 8:53 mark of the third period to extend Tampa Bay’s lead to 3-1.

As you can tell by the video above, it won’t be Stamkos’ most memorable goal, but it’s good to see him get the first one out of the way.

There aren’t many guys who have a nose for the net like the Lightning’s captain, as he, Rick Nash and Alexander Ovechkin were the only players to hit the 40 goal mark last season.

Erik Condra, Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Brown also scored for the Lightning.

Tampa Bay will play their next game on Oct. 12 against the Boston Bruins.


Kings’ AHL affiliate gives Emery PTO

Ray Emery
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Ray Emery has agreed to join the Ontario Reign on a professional tryout, according to a team release.

The Reign are the minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings.

Emery attended Tampa Bay’s training camp on a PTO, but he was released after the team claimed Kevin Poulin on waivers from the Islanders.

The 33-year-old had a 10-11-7 record with a 3.06 goals-against-average and a .894 save percentage in 31 games with the Flyers last season.

Even with starter Jonathan Quick struggling, it’s hard to envision this move leading to a return to the NHL for Emery.

The Kings have Quick and Jhonas Enroth with the big club, while veteran Peter Budaj was signed to a two-way contract on Friday.