Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 11/4/11
Raleigh, NC -- The Carolina Hurricanes have been hanging on, but it's unlikely the team can keep it up much longer without Eric Staal getting more involved on the scorer's sheet. Staal's frustration poured out on the ice during a 5-1 loss at home to the Washington Capitals on Friday night, resulting in a few scrums and a penalty. It didn't result in a goal or even an assist, and left the star in a prolonged slump that is becoming a real issue for the young club. To be frank, it's something Carolina simply can't overcome in the long run. "He's our leader out there," Brandon Sutter said. "Everyone has streaks through the year, you go on streaks where you're scoring goals and then when you're not scoring goals and you really feel like you're playing the same way. It can be tricky and challenging, but he'll come out of it, he always does, and I don't think there's any panic in his game." Staal has just three goals and two assists and is at minus-14 through the first 13 games of the season. He was at just minus-10 through all of last season and finished with 76 points 33 goals and 43 assists. He has averaged 35.8 goals in his first six NHL campaigns. The slump, however, includes goals in just two games, including a pair of power-play goals in a loss at Washington in the second contest of the season and a goal in a 4-1 victory at Boston on Oct. 18, which was also with a man advantage. Taking it a step further, Staal has one more penalty on the season than he has goals. And his slow start may have prompted owner Peter Karmanos' comment about the team's "slow starters" during a press conference earlier in the day introducing some new ownership partners. Staal, who has just two points in Carolina's last 11 games, wasn't mentioned by name, but at 7.75 million in salary this season, the owner clearly wants more production. But so does Staal, who wasn't available to the media following Friday's loss. His teammates, however, are taking up for him, as expected. They know Staal is frustrated, but in the brotherhood of hockey, it's not about one player. And with respect to Staal, the currency he's built secures his mates' confidence. "Yeah, I think the whole team's pretty frustrated with the way that game ended," said Jeff Skinner, who paused to think through his answer when asked about Staal's obvious frustration on the ice Friday. "But yeah, Eric's doing little things that help us. He's winning big draws, he's blocking shots. That's all you can ask from guys when the hands aren't there. Sometimes that's just the way it goes; you don't get bounces, he's hit a few goal posts, that's just the way the game goes." But Staal's slump isn't relegated to just the last month. Dating back to last season, in which he had a seven-game goal-less stretch during the crucial month of March, he has just nine goals in the last 36 games. So in some respects, the Canes have been forced to learn to play with Staal not lighting the lamp very often. After all, the Hurricanes are tied for eighth in the Eastern Conference with 13 points. Though, they are operating under the condition it will eventually come. "I think if we play well we don't really care who's scoring," Sutter said. "And I think in Eric's case, he has the ability to score a lot of goals and take games over. He'll find his game, and when he does, it will help us."
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