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Hurricanes' Jordan Staal faces Penguins for first time

Wednesday, 02.27.2013 / 9:30 PM
Corey Masisak  - NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- When Jordan Staal found out he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, he knew this day was coming.

Staal was delighted to join his brother, Eric, in Raleigh, N.C., on a team that could provide him a greater role than he had in six seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Jordan will face his former teammates for the first time Thursday when the Penguins and Hurricanes meet at PNC Arena (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

"It is going to be fun. Obviously I was there for a long time and have a lot of memories in that organization," Staal said. "It is going to be a big matchup for our team as well, playing against a good team. It will be a lot of new challenges and a good challenge for myself."

The trade happened on the day of Staal's wedding, and several of the guests became former teammates during the reception. Staal had a chance to spend more time with many of them later in the summer when Marc-Andre Fleury and Brooks Orpik each got married.

Staal had 120 goals and 248 points in 431 games with the Penguins. He made back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup Final and lifted the Cup at Joe Louis Arena in 2009.

He joined forces with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to form one of the top center trios in League history, and played a large role in shifting the balance of power from the Detroit Red Wings to the Penguins in that 2009 Final.

"I've kept in pretty good contact with a lot of the guys there. I had a great time there," Staal said. "It is going to be weird. I've seen it a lot, being in Pittsburgh and seeing other guys go. Now to be on the other side, it is a little different. It is still that same feeling. It is just going to be fun to play against those guys and try to beat them."

Shortly after joining the Hurricanes, Staal signed a 10-year, $60 million contract as the franchise committed to having the brothers as its anchors for a long time.

Jordan Staal and his wife found a place near his brother's home, and because of the lockout had plenty of time to figure things out in his new city.

"We got settled into the city fairly quickly," Jordan said. "We had a lot of time to do that. That was one of the nice things about the lockout, but that was about it. We're really digging in with Raleigh. It is a great city with a lot of great people. We've been very blessed to be down there."

The move has given Staal a chance to consistently see more ice time in offensive situations, and to be counted on for more of the offensive burden. Injuries to Crosby and Malkin gave Staal a chance to play in a top-six role for long stretches the past two seasons, but when everyone was healthy in Pittsburgh, he was ticketed for a spot on the third line.

Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero reportedly offered the same contract (in years and total money), but Staal didn't want to commit to that long of a deal with the uncertainty of his future role. There wasn't a lot of time in the preseason for Staal to get acquainted on the ice with his new teammates, but having his brother around has been a big help.

"He's filled in real well," Eric Staal said. "Any time you come from an organization after a long period of time there is an adjustment, but I think it has been pretty seamless coming here. He's a smart hockey player and he knows the game. Knowing me and some of the other guys that have already been here, he has fit in nice. He's going to be a big part of this team for a long time.

"To be honest, I didn't really know what to expect. It has been fun. It's been fun to be able to after games leave together and ride to the airport and just talk about the game. Before we used to always be talking about his game and my game and now it is just us talking about together. It can be certain situations or things about our team we'd like to be better or things that are going good. It is fun to be able to have those conversations with your brother."

Jordan Staal has four goals and 15 points in 18 games. He's playing about the same amount as he has the previous four seasons (19:47 per game), but that is more of a reflection of how valuable he was to the Penguins.

With Carolina, Staal is counted on to be a top two-way center, but general manager Jim Rutherford said he and his scouts thought there was untapped offensive potential there and he hoped the move would bring it out of him.

"It is the good habits that he has," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "How he plays the game -- he came from a team that won a championship. They play the game the right way. I think those habits that he has really help out our other young guys and our team right now.

"He's only, what 24? He's still young. It is like the first trade is emotional and in your mind. Everything is new -- new teammates, new system. He's playing a new role than when he was in Pittsburgh. His identity for me is probably the biggest thing. He knew his role in Pittsburgh and he's probably asked to be a little more offensive here and he has the opportunity to do that."

Eric Staal said he and Jordan haven't called brothers Marc, who plays for the New York Rangers, and Jared, who plays for Carolina's nearby affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, and put the phone on speaker to ask them how jealous they are, but this generation's first family of hockey still has plenty of time to keep each other up to date.

There are just three teams to discuss now instead of four.

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