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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."

Contact Dan Rosen at
Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic