Originally written February 27, 2013 on Fox Sports Carolinas:
Jordan Staal agreed that it might have been the most surreal moment in his life. On his wedding day last summer, with about a dozen of his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates present roughly two-thirds of the roster he learned he had been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, where he would play alongside his brother, Eric. Talk about a range of emotions. "Yeah, Id say it's up there," he told FOXSportsCarolinas.com by phone. "It was a very emotional day and to have my ex-teammates, I guess now, from Pitt up there and having to move on from there, it was nice in a way, hanging out with those guys for just that night and being able to have some fun with them instead of texting them or something like that. It was definitely an up-and-down day, but definitely a lot of ups towards the end. "We ended up having a great night, myself and Heather." So far, Staal's marriage with his new team also is off to a bright start. On Thursday, the 'Canes will meet up for the first time against those now former Penguins teammates friends who were close enough to attend his wedding at PNC Arena. Another subplot: It's a battle of two division leaders, as the Hurricanes enter with a tenuous hold on the Southeast Division (tied with Tampa Bay and Winnipeg at 19 points) while the Penguins sit atop the Atlantic Division with 26 points, second most in the Eastern Conference. The Staal trade was GM Jim Rutherford's major offseason move, with the intent of getting the 'Canes into the playoffs for the first time since 2009. To get the deal going, Rutherford got an assist from Staal himself. Then 23, Staal used his status as an unrestricted free-agent-to-be in July 2013 to help leverage the trade to Carolina. Pittsburgh offered him an extension but when he declined, Penguins GM Ray Shero sent him to Carolina for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the Canes first-round pick last year. Staal promptly signed a 10-year extension worth 60 million, which kicks in next season. Sitting on the depth chart in Pittsburgh behind two of the game's best players, let alone centers, in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Staal was never going to be a second-line center in Pittsburgh. He also was never going to play with brother Eric, the 'Canes captain who is under contract for three more seasons after this one. "It's been good, he's a good player, Jordan said of Eric, who leads the team with 19 points, four more than Jordan, who ranks second. "Its always fun watching him and he does so many good things on the ice. He's leading our team this year, doing everything we needed him to help our team win. He's got that competitive fire. "It's hard not to rub off on players. He really leads the team by example and does some great things every shift. He's a lot of fun to play with and a good player to watch." So far this season, Jordan has mostly skated on a line with Pat Dwyer on his right and either Jeff Skinner (currently out with a concussion) or Jussi Jokinen on his left. Staal has yet to play much with Eric, but as Jordan noted, "Im there for a long time, so well see how it goes." During his six seasons in Pittsburgh, Staal established himself as one of the games premier two-way centers. Right now, he's minus-4 but he said the one-week training camp didn't give him much time to learn coach Kirk Muller's system. The first few regular season games, Staal said, felt like exhibition games and it was not until the Hurricanes eighth game that he registered on the positive side of the ledger. During the months of inactivity brought on by the lockout, Jordan and Eric talked a lot but not necessarily about the technicalities of Carolina's system, the kind of thing that can only be learned with plenty of teammates and coaches during practice sessions. "We were more or less talking about the lockout more than anything," Jordan said. "Just trying to get that going. We weren't too worried about system stuff. (Eric) helped out, obviously, the first few weeks." Staal has had a few rough games lately as the 'Canes have lost three of four, with the losses coming to divisional foes. He went minus-4 against Tampa Bay last Sunday and minus-2 in the game before that last Friday. But its fairly safe to say he'll be ready Thursday when his old team visits. "Its one of those things, when the schedule comes out and you're looking through it, you want to know when that first game is," Staal said. "Its going to be very exciting. Obviously, for myself, it's just going to be a lot of fun. Theres a few friends out there on the ice but at the same time Im not going to let them beat me at the same time. Its going to be a challenge."

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