Jordan Staal hasn’t played yet this season because of a broken leg suffered in September, but his recovery is almost over. Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said the 26-year-old forward is close to returning and Carolina’s game against Montreal on Dec. 29 looks like a reasonable target date, per NHL.com writer Dan Rosen.
Going into tonight’s contest against the New York Rangers, the Hurricanes have posted a lousy 9-19-4 record without Staal this season. While he hasn’t emerged as a star player, he is a valuable two-way forward that will provide Carolina with a significant boost. At the same time, it’s hard to envision Staal — or any one player — being capable of digging Carolina out of its sizable hole.
The Hurricanes rank 29th in the league, ahead of only the Edmonton Oilers. They would need to close a six-point gap just to climb out of the Eastern Conference basement and are a staggering 14 points behind in the playoff race.
If nothing else though, once Staal returns, the Hurricanes might find themselves close to full strength. Alexander Semin, who missed five straight games with a lower-body injury, was activated ahead of Sunday’s contest.
Jordan Staal has yet to play a game this regular season due to a broken leg suffered in September, but there was a promising sign for him and the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer, the 26-year-old Staal skated on Saturday for the first time since suffering the injury on Sept. 23, however the report, citing head coach Bill Peters, stated there is no timetable for when the towering center will rejoin his teammates for practice.
“It was tough,” Staal told the Raleigh News & Observer. “If you think about it not many players don’t go through injuries throughout their career. It happens but it has been frustrating.
“It was nice to get out there again and put on the skates and go for a little stroll. Hopefully it gets a little more intense from now on. There’s still some pain every once in a while and a few different things. From now it’s just trying to get comfortable skating and getting stronger. Start full practices and go from there. Today it felt great.”
Staal underwent surgery toward the end of September, with the expected recovery time to be three to four months.
Last season, his second full season with Carolina, Staal scored 15 goals and 40 points in 82 games.
Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal is out of his cast and expected to begin off-ice workouts soon according to head coach Bill Peters.
Staal suffered a fractured fibula during an awkward collision with Buffalo Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges in the Canes’ second preseason game and underwent surgery the same week.
“He was looking good today. He’s out of the boot,” Peters told the team’s website. “He’s going to start training with our people off the ice. From there, if everything goes well – it depends on the amount of swelling and the recovery from workout to workout day-to-day – he’ll progress to skating on his own with Pete Friesen, and then he’ll join us from that point.”
Staal, 26, was originally expected to miss 3-4 months with the injury. Carolina’s 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday was game No. 23 missed by Staal.
“There are a couple of different timelines, but we’ll just wait and see. It’s going good, and I think he’s slightly ahead of schedule, whatever schedule that would be,” Peters said. “I just know we have to be patient with it.”
Carolina plays host to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
Ken Holland knew he was taking a chance putting Andrej Nestrasil on waivers yesterday, calling it a “risk.”
Today, the Detroit GM was proven right.
Carolina has claimed the 23-year-old forward, the club announced. Nestrasil, Detroit’s third-round pick (75th overall) at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, made his NHL debut this year and has appeared in 13 games, scoring two points while averaging over 11 minutes per night.
“Andrej is a young player with good size who we feel can contribute to our group of forwards,” Carolina GM Ron Francis said in a statement. “He has improved in each of his pro seasons and took a big step last year with Grand Rapids.”
Nestrasil, a former Quebec junior league standout, had a good year with Grand Rapids in ’13-14 — scoring 16 goals and 36 points in 70 games — and should have a better chance at minutes with a Carolina team that’s lean on depth up front and is still without Jordan Staal (on IR with a broken leg.)
Detroit has to be unhappy with this loss. While Nestrasil wasn’t exactly lighting it up production-wise with the Wings, he did impress head coach Mike Babcock.
“He’s a guy whose strong on the puck, good with the puck,” Babcock said earlier this season, per the Detroit Free Press. “He’s been good defensively, he’s been smart.”
While injuries were a reasonable – if frustratingly persistent – excuse, there wasn’t much use sugarcoating the Carolina Hurricanes going 0-6-2 in October. That same team is now undefeated in three November games, however, prompting fist bumps and smiles, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
“The guys are playing hard,” Cam Ward said. “We pushed the pace early on (and) it was a complete effort by everybody. We’ve got a good thing going here and we want to keep it going.”
So, what can we take away from this three-game winning streak?
- Looking at the possession stats is probably kind of silly at this point. Just consider the comical contrast in their stats from October (fifth-worst) to November (second overall).
- Going simpler might be wiser then, at least for now. One promising trend is that the Hurricanes are out-shooting opponents. They did so by a slight margin in their last two losses of October and hold a 104-76 shot advantage during this run.
- Cam Ward has been playing considerably better. He has a shutout and three wins in this run. His overall numbers are still sub-backup-level (.886 save percentage, yikes), but hey … baby steps.
- From the “No, duh” department: The Hurricanes are better with Eric Staal than without him. He has a goal and two assists in his four games back from injury. Beyond the obvious addition of another legitimate scoring option, getting a player like Staal back creates a domino effect of benefits: players get the chance to slide back into more comfortable/specialized roles. Carolina might even start approach “somewhat competent” status once Jordan Staal’s healthy. (Maybe.)
It could be an interesting week-or-so for Carolina. They face the battered Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday and then the wobbling Washington Capitals on Saturday. After that, it’s the surprisingly hot Calgary Flames on Nov. 10.
Three games – or, really, the full 11 contests they’ve played so far – present a sample size that’s simply too small to draw any meaningful conclusions.
That said, there’s at least hope that the Hurricanes might not be as bad as they first seemed.
(Then again, maybe this will only hold true for a couple weeks. Mid-November presents five straight road games and six of seven away from Carolina, so they might just go through the meat grinder once more.)