Hurricanes go 'Staal in' for return to playoffs

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 17, 2013
The Carolina Hurricanes aren't content to simply build for the future. This year, they're going Staal in. This marks a big year for a small-market franchise that has made the playoffs just once since winning the 2006 Stanley Cup. The Hurricanes are looking to take a significant step forward in coach Kirk Muller's first complete season, and they spent some significant money during the offseason to help make that happen. And no move - not even the signing of Alexander Semin - created more buzz than the blockbuster trade that reunited Eric Staal with younger brother Jordan. ''We've got some new faces that are really going to help our team,'' Eric Staal said, ''and we'd like to gel together quickly this week.'' For the most part, the Hurricanes skated well in four months last season under Muller, a first-time NHL head coach who took over for the fired Paul Maurice in December 2011 and led them to points in 37 of 57 games. No player blossomed under him more than Eric Staal, who played at better than a point-per-game pace under the new coach. Now they want to keep that up for an entire season - albeit one that's just 48 games due to the lockout. ''Our guys have to understand the parity of the NHL is tight every night, but we have a capability that it's not now in a situation that we're not going to win a hockey game because we don't have enough firepower or goaltending or whatever,'' Muller said. ''I think we have a strong enough group right now that every night, we should battle to try to win. ... But we have to go and earn it.'' Their new faces on offense should be able to help with that. They wanted another elite forward and wound up swinging a summertime trade with Pittsburgh that landed Jordan Staal, then locking up him with a long-term extension that takes effect next season. ''Getting to play on a great team and getting to play with Eric is a really cool feeling,'' he said. Then they took a flyer on Semin, a noted nemesis from division rival Washington, by signing him to a one-year, $7 million deal. Over the years, Semin - the fifth-leading scorer in Capitals history - has totaled 27 goals and 45 points against Carolina, his most against any team. ''He's definitely got the skill - you know that playing against him for years now,'' Eric Staal said. ''I think even some nights when you don't have it, just that threat (of Semin), he's going to back off defenses and it's going to give other guys opportunities. He's one of those guys where, with his release and his shot, he's going to be able to score a lot of goals in tight areas.'' Eric Staal figures to be a prime beneficiary of those moves. After Muller considered moving one of the Staals - both natural centers - to the wing to get them on the ice at the same time, it now looks like the plan is to have them center the top two lines. The elder Staal will center a top line with Semin and perhaps Jiri Tlusty - who's coming off a career-best 17-goal, 19-assist season - with Jordan Staal alongside former rookie of the year Jeff Skinner and high-energy skater Chad LaRose on the second line, giving them a quality top six. The Hurricanes had a few other glaring needs that were addressed both before and after the four-month lockout. They brought back offensive-minded defenseman Joe Corvo for a third stint with the team, sent veteran goalie Brian Boucher to Philadelphia after he spent most of his only season in Carolina on the injured list and awarded the job as Cam Ward's backup to veteran Dan Ellis. They were shopping for some toughness and grit to help replace injured forward Tuomo Ruutu and pulled off a trade with Los Angeles to acquire physical forward Kevin Westgarth - the son-in-law of former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher. Those moves strengthen what shaped up to be a solid returning cast that includes a strong mix of experience and talented youth on defense, and a workhorse in goal in Ward, whose workload for this compressed season has yet to be determined after he started 142 of 164 games the past two years. ''We need to go into games feeling like we can compete with anybody and build our expectations up that we can win every night,'' Muller said. ''That's our priority, and if we start the game off 0-0, we should feel that, hey, we have enough power in here that we should be able to score at the right times.''
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Cubs trade for Chapman a risk, but potential payoff too hard to ignore

White Sox fan wears a fantastic taped-up Chris Sale jersey

Wisconsin kicker will wear 27 to honor Nebraska's Sam Foltz

Dennis Schroder wears disguise to play in German streetball tournament

Browns indicate they will give Josh Gordon another chance

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Prince Fielder to undergo season-ending neck surgery

Eagles want Carson Wentz to be 'starter ready' Week 1

Report: 49ers concerned Anthony Davis will quit again

Did Manning hurt NFLPA's case in HGH investigations?

Report: Steinbrenner won't allow fire sale, wants to make playoffs

Report: Dion Waiters agrees to one-year deal with Heat

Dion Waiters' deal signals the end of the 2016 money grab

Tom Jackson could leave ESPN after almost three decades

Cavs sign coach Tyronn Lue to a five-year extension

More than 10,000 people registered for Jaguars Pokemon Go night

NFL issues new concussion protocol

Angels listening to offers on Hector Santiago

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

Kevin Durant’s OKC restaurant will be closed, rebranded

Lamar Odom said to be held back by one 'toxic friend'

Mario Balotelli crashes Liverpool fans' wedding

Michael Vick: I used to feel I was 'dominating too much'

WATCH: Astros, Rangers minor leaguers get into brawl

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker