Jordan Staal

‘Canes ‘still don’t know’ who’ll replace Staal at center


Sounds like the Carolina Hurricanes are still trying to figure things out in the wake of Jordan Staal’s broken leg.

Staal, who’ll be sidelined for the next 3-4 months, left a fairly sizable hole at center and now it’s up to first-year head coach Bill Peters to fill it — which, according to Peters, is a work in progress.

“Who we’re going to have in the middle, that’s the one thing we don’t know, just because we still have these (preseason) games left to play,” Peters explained, per the Raleigh News & Observer.  “Get Victor Rask there, see how well he does. Obviously we want to get (Riley Nash) in there.

“We still don’t know who’s going to play in that two-hole. But this week will be good to figure that out.”

Regardless of who gets the promotion, it’s clear Carolina is going to push someone into a bigger role than originally anticipated. Rask, the club’s second-round pick at the 2011 Draft, has never played in the NHL but could open in the top-six forward group. Jay McClement, signed from Toronto in the offseason largely for his penalty killing and faceoff prowess, could end up being the No. 3 center by default.

Then there’s Riley Nash.

A former first round pick (21st overall by Edmonton in 2007), Nash enjoyed a breakout campaign last year, registering career highs across the board: 10 goals, 24 points and 73 games played. And although Nash only averaged 12:40 TOI per game, it sounds like Peters is ready to give him an extended workload; Nash has skated in the preseason on a line with talented wingers in Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm and could be primed for another bump in production.

Whatever the ‘Canes decide, they’ll have to do it quickly. The team has just three preseason games left before opening the regular season on Oct. 10 with a home date against the Isles.

Penguins coach says Kapanen could crack opening night lineup


We’re not that far from the beginning of the 2014-15 season, and it doesn’t appear that the Pittsburgh Penguins are any less impressed with 2014 first-rounder Kasperi Kapanen.

New head coach Mike Johnston said that the 22nd pick of this year’s draft has a solid chance of playing in the team’s season opener on Oct. 9. The original plan was for the 18-year-old to skate with Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis against the Columbus Blue Jackets today, but that didn’t work out for reasons beyond Kapanen’s control.

That didn’t stop Kapanen from finding the net against Columbus, as you can see in these full highlights:

The team’s shown a pattern of being quite excited about the skilled son of former NHL forward Sami Kapanen.

Days after he fell to them in the first round, the Penguins professed a belief that he might make the team right away. Bill Guerin provided rave reviews about his skill after seeing him early on, too.

The real testament will be if the Penguins believe that he’s ready for a full season of work. Pittsburgh can trot him out for up to nine regular season contests before “burning” the first year of his entry-level contract. They haven’t been shy about doing that in the past; Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal made immediate leaps while Evgeni Malkin and Olli Maatta were key players one season removed from their draft years.

With Beau Bennett out for about six weeks, it makes that much more sense for Kapanen to get an extended look. Perhaps he’ll play so well that they won’t be able to resist keeping him around?

Jordan Staal surgery goes ‘as expected’


Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal underwent surgery to repair a fractured fibula Friday morning the club announced.

The recovery period for Staal, 26, remains three to four months.

Staal suffered the injury Tuesday night in Buffalo when he was tangled up with Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges.

The former Pittsburgh Penguins first-round pick had the procedure done at Raleigh Orthopaedic.

Related: Pondering Carolina’s outlook without Jordan Staal

Eric Staal says Carolina will deal with Jordan’s injury ‘collectively’


On Tuesday night, PHT postulated that the Carolina Hurricanes would have to replace Jordan Staal’s versatile work by committee. It appears that’s the early plan, as his brother Eric Staal told the team website.

“We’re going to have to do it collectively,” Eric Staal said on Wednesday. “It’s not going to be one person because there’s not many that can do what he does. He’s a big, big man that’s tough to play against. We’re going to have to have other guys step up collectively to play those minutes and gain some experience from that.”

New head coach Bill Peters got a little more specific, noting that players like defensive specialist Jay McClement will probably carry a heavier burden that initially planned.

“It opens up opportunities for various players,” Peters said (also on Wednesday). “We need someone to take his minutes on the power play. We need somebody else to take his minutes on the PK. We’ll probably need Jay Mac (McClement) to take a lot more D-zone draws than we originally thought, but you know what? We have enough guys, and if we have the mindset that we can do it by committee, we’ll get the job done.”

These comments came a day before word broke that Jordan Staal is expected to miss three-to-four months and will need surgery, but it’s likely that the team was aware that it would be a tough situation even if there wasn’t a prognosis at that point.

One can’t blame Peters for being positive, but Jordan Staal was the rare player who could log about a minute and a half of penalty kill time, produce useful offense (even if his numbers were disappointing last season) and carry linemates like Nathan Gerbe (pictured with an agonizing Staal).

As you can see in this post, the players who might absorb some of that loss were highly specialized in their offense-heavy or defense-heavy roles last season, so Peters might face quite a puzzling game of Lineup Jenga to make it all work.

It’s quite a test for everyone involved, even if Staal comes back a little bit sooner than anticipated.

Jordan Staal needs surgery, will miss 3-4 months


The Carolina Hurricanes announced awful news regarding Jordan Staal on Thursday: he’ll need surgery to repair a fractured fibula in his right leg and is expected to miss three-to-four months.

Staal, 26, suffered the injury after being tangled up with Buffalo Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges, who told the Olean Times Herald’s Bill Hoppe the following about the moment:

“It was one of those plays, where as soon as I landed on him, I heard him scream,” Gorges said. “I knew right away something must’ve hurt him.”

By the three-to-four month standard, it sounds like Staal won’t be able to return until the December holiday season or sometime in early January. The two-way center hadn’t missed a single Hurricanes game in his first two seasons with the team, but he could miss close to half of the 2014-15 campaign.

Granted, hockey players are known to come back early from certain ailments, so you never know.

A big blow to the Hurricanes

Regardless, this is a brutal loss for a Hurricanes team coming into a pivotal season. A brand new management group (at least at key positions with new GM Ron Francis and new head coach Bill Peters) decided to stick with Carolina’s expensive core for at least this coming campaign, so seeing a key member go down in a mostly meaningless game is a cruel twist.

While Staal hasn’t been the kind of scorer one might expect from a second overall pick (the Pittsburgh Penguins grabbed him over the likes of Jonathan Toews and Phil Kessel in 2006), he’s the useful sort of player who can drive possession play even with tough assignments and shaky linemates.

Click here to take a look at how Carolina might cope without him.

No doubt, this is a harsh loss for a team that many pegged as an underdog/cellar dweller even with a healthy Jordan Staal.