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Staal feeling the heat to spark 'Canes

Friday, 05.22.2009 / 3:42 PM / Conference Finals: Pittsburgh vs. Carolina

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

With zero goals, just two assists and a minus-5 rating in his last five games, Carolina's Eric Staal is starting to feel some heat. His struggles are magnified because Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby combined for 5 goals and 4 assists in Games 1 and 2.

Staal admitted Friday that he feels added pressure to step up and be held accountable for some offense, but he isn't discouraged with his game.

"You want to be counted on offensively. That's where I'm at with this team," said Staal, who has an assist, six shots and a minus-3 rating in two games against Pittsburgh. "Obviously, it hasn't happened for me in the first two games. It's been close a few times.  Just got to stay with it, stay battling."

Carolina coach Paul Maurice bristled at the suggestion that Staal is not doing his part to help the Hurricanes win.

"I know we look at points, but we've lost our last two games and we won our last two series, so he plays perfectly for me," Maurice said. "He is the one player that we have very high expectations with, but it's our forward group at the end of the day. You don't play that position alone. As a group I think I would like to say we could create a little bit more, but four goals on the road is enough to win a hockey game."

Staal believes Carolina can do a better job of getting pucks on Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

They had 28 shots in Game 2, but only 14 in the final 40 minutes. Similarly, the Canes had 25 shots in Game 1, but only 13 in the final 40 minutes although they did outscore Pittsburgh, 2-1, over that span.

"Sometimes we're looking for extra plays and extra passes," Staal said. "I think our team is best suited when we're driving and shooting and going to the net and getting the rebounds and making it ugly. We've got to focus on throwing pucks in the net. Get in there, crashing and we'll get our offense that way."

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I have been blessed to play for 16 years in the NHL; it has been an amazing ride. I would like to thank the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers organizations and owners for providing me the opportunity to play the sport I love for so many years. I could have never played for so long or accomplished all that I have without the unwavering love and support from my wife, Heather, our three sons, Ryan, Lucas, and Mason, and my parents.

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