About a month ago, Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal underwent vaguely described “core muscle” surgery that may or may not be somewhat like getting a sports hernia treated. He participated in his first informal skate with the team on Friday, and from what he told the Raleigh News & Observer, it sounds like he’s off to a good start.
“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.”
The 30-year-old forward explained that the issue resulted from training and wasn’t a nagging issue that plagued his disappointing 2013-14 season. Staal stated that he was believed he was in the best shape of his life* before that ailment came up, but perhaps he was pushing too hard?
This Hurricanes team is tough to peg this season because of players like Staal; one could easily see them crash and burn yet again, yet there’s always the possibility that key core figures will rebound and/or enjoy better health in 2014-15.
(Speaking of which, Chip Alexander reports that Jeff Skinner was also involved in that informal skate.)
There’s also the possibility that new head coach Bill Peters might get more out of this team than former bench boss Kirk Muller did. Staal said that he engaged in a “productive” 45-minute discussion with the new coach back in July, so at least there’s been some dialogue between the two.
Staal’s 61 point output last season was a big disappointment considering that he didn’t really blow away his work from the lockout-abbreviated 2012-13 campaign (61 points in 79 games versus 53 in 48 contests). Staal never dipped below 70 points in a normal campaign aside from his rookie season back in 2003-04, and with his $8.25 million cap hit and his $9.25 million salary for each of the next two seasons, there’s a lot of pressure for Staal to turn things around.
Being close to 100 percent certainly wouldn’t hurt his chances, so this positive update at least prompts some optimism.
* – Please don’t take a shot any time you read that phrase this summer, especially as training camps approach.
Shayne Gostisbehere is the proud owner of a new rookie record.
With his goal in the third period of Saturday’s 2-1 OT loss to the Devils, the 22-year-old extended his point streak to 11 games, which is a record for rookie defensemen in the NHL.
Gostisbehere has an incredible 10 goals and 30 points in 35 games this season.
Gostisbehere’s goal tied the game at one after Devils forward Joseph Blandisi scored this beauty in the first period:
Adam Henrique added the game-winning goal in overtime.
It’s the second straight 2-1 victory for the Devils, who also beat the Oilers by the same score on Tuesday night.
The Flyers have just one win in their last five contests.
To add insult to injury, Philadelphia lost Michael Del Zotto to an upper-body injury, per GM Ron Hextall.
Here’s an updated look at the Metropolitan division standings and Wild Card race:
CHICAGO (AP) Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin is expected to play Saturday night against Anaheim after missing two games with an illness.
Panarin participated in Chicago’s optional morning skate, and coach Joel Quenneville says the rookie will be in the lineup against the Ducks.
The 24-year-old Panarin, who has played on Chicago’s second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane for most of the season, is second on the team with 34 assists and 52 points. The Blackhawks dropped both games while he was out.
Some good news/bad news for the Rangers.
Exactly one week after suffering a concussion against the Philadelphia Flyers, defenseman Ryan McDonagh returned to the ice with his teammates this morning.
The Rangers captain was wearing a non-contract jersey, but “looked good” according to coach Alain Vigneault.
McDonagh was hurt after taking a punch to the head from Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds (above).
The 26-year-old has missed each of his team’s last three games since suffering the injury.
McDonagh hasn’t been cleared for contact, but that could happen in the next few days according to Vigneault.
The news wasn’t as good for forward Rick Nash, who’s been dealing with a bone bruise in his leg.
Nash has missed each of New York last eight game’s and Vigneault admitted that he’s no longer considered day-to-day.
He’ll miss at least another week.
What a story Joseph Blandisi‘s been for the New Jersey Devils this season.
The 21-year-old played in his first NHL game on Dec. 11 and has stayed with the Devils ever since.
It took him five games to pick up his first career point, but he’s done a whole lot more damage since then.
Blandisi came into Saturday’s action with 10 points in his last 12 games and he added to that against the Flyers.
He opened the scoring with this beautiful between-the-legs goal on goalie Michal Neuvirth (top of the page).
That’s Blandisi’s fourth goal of the season.
Some Twitter reaction to the goal: