There are high expectations for captain Eric Staal, and that won't change just because of a coaching change.
The Hurricanes are intent on seeing more production out of the big center. That's where the coaching change comes in because an established former All-Star player such as Kirk Muller might be the remedy that Staal needs.
How demanding Muller becomes in regard to Staal remains to be seen. But initially, the new coach is taking an understanding approach.
"Everybody is human," Muller said. "You're going to go through highs and lows."
Staal produced a game-high five shots on goal (with no points) in Sunday's 3-2 overtime loss at Florida.
The lows outweighed the highs for Staal this season in 25 games under former coach Paul Maurice. Staal managed only five goals during that span.
Muller sees the assets that Staal possesses.
"He's a workhorse," Muller said. "He has proved he can be one of the elite players in this game."
He'll have his next chance to show that Wednesday night at home against Phoenix.
The Hurricanes can't seem to maintain consistency, and that continues to be an overriding problem during a difficult stretch of results. They managed 16 shots on goal in the second period Sunday at Florida, then only three shots the rest of the way (including more than three minutes of overtime). "We have to learn to stay with the game plan," coach Kirk Muller said.
The Hurricanes' good deeds on faceoffs are starting to go for naught again. They won 60 percent of the draws against Florida but didn't turn those into consistent offensive threats.
The Hurricanes were trying to shoot high on Florida G Jose Theodore and that worked for RW Chad LaRose, who scored his ninth goal of the season Sunday. LaRose's goal came unassisted and gave the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead in the second period. That was LaRose's ninth goal of the season, already passing half of his total of 16 goals in all of last season.
G Cam Ward will remain the clear No. 1 goalie despite some uneven play at times the last few weeks. This month alone, three goalies have served as his backup. Ward also has shown new coach Kirk Muller the type of performances that have made him the backbone of the team at times the last few seasons.
D Jay Harrison returned to action after missing 10 games with what was eventually described as a concussion. Harrison played under new coach Kirk Muller for the first time Sunday at Florida. That left D Derek Joslin as a healthy scratch.
D Tim Gleason had gone more than a year since he scored a goal until he tallied his first of the season Sunday at Florida. It was a span of 97 games between goals before he scored on a wrist shot. "I guess it went in, finally," Gleason said of the shot.
LW Jeff Skinner (concussion) missed his fourth consecutive game Dec. 18.
D Joni Pitkanen (concussion) was injured Dec. 6 against Calgary and has missed every game since. There's no specific time frame for his expected return.
G Brian Boucher (lower body) was injured in practice Dec. 5. He has been placed on injured reserve.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"There are so many games in this league. You've got to let that one go and get ready for the next one." -- LW Chad LaRose after the Hurricanes lost for the 10th time in their last 12 games Sunday at Florida.