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Hurricanes need a big game from Staal tonight

Tuesday, 05.26.2009 / 12:45 PM / Conference Finals: Pittsburgh vs. Carolina

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

 
RALEIGH, N.C. -- If there was ever a time when the Carolina Hurricanes needed Eric Staal to come through in the clutch, it would be Tuesday night in Game 4 at RBC Center (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).

Staal has yet to score a goal in this series. While he's generating some opportunities, Staal just can't seem to cash in against Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Staal, who entered the series with a team-leading nine goals, realizes time is running out with Carolina in a 0-3 hole.

"I'm counted on to score goals, and counted on to produce offensively," Staal said. "I think I need to be a little better in my end of the rink and focus on that first, and everything else will take care of itself. That's sort of the way my game is and when those opportunities come, they're going to fall. I didn't score 40 goals (in the regular season) for no reason."

Staal's teammates said he has been doing all he can to produce quality opportunities.

"I think he's been great," forward Chad LaRose told NHL.com. "I think as much attention as he draws to himself on the ice that the rest of us have to pick it up a little. I don't think he's been any different than any other series. He's had great opportunities and great looks and they're just not going in for him; but that's the story of every superstar player in the world.

"I don't deny that he's going to be great (Tuesday) night, just like he's been the entire series," LaRose said. "If he doesn't score, the rest of us will have to pick it up to get the 'W' and get on that plane back to Pittsburgh."

As for Staal, there's no better time than the present.

"You have to think and feel good in order for good things to happen and we're excited," he said. "It's obviously a great challenge but we're going to be ready to go."

Injury update -- Erik Cole, Scott Walker and Tuomo Ruutu, all noticeable no-shows at Monday's optional skate, were back on the ice Tuesday morning as the Hurricanes look to climb from a 0-3 hole. Ruutu, who is suffering from a lower-body injury, is a likely game-time decision.

Walker said if Game 4 were Monday, he would have been able to play. He was still feeling the effects of a hit by Pens defenseman Sergei Gonchar following Saturday's Game 3 loss and, as a result, took Monday off.

"I probably could have went out and played, but we just decided as a team that I get the message treatment and the treatment that I needed," Walker said. "Obviously, your first concern is your head, but I don't foresee any problems and expect to be a full go."

Good vibrations – Chad LaRose had a positive vibe when asked how he felt entering this must-win situation Tuesday night.

"Our backs are against the wall and that's the only thing our room is thinking about," he said. "It takes four to win a series and no one has won four yet, so we're excited. It's desperation and we all know that if we're not desperate, it's let's-go-home-time. We're going to throw it all out there."

Carolina defenseman Joe Corvo admits the team must take a different approach entering an elimination game of this magnitude.

"It's a little bit different in that you have to really focus on trying to win the game because the minute you have guys or the entire team not really caring whether you move on or not, that's when the season is over," Corvo told NHL.com. "We're trying to address and focus on that. We want to go further instead of having to pack the car and leave after the game."

Bruins/Hurricanes Playoff Gear Hurricanes Gear Penguins Gear Carolina coach Paul Maurice knows there's no pre-game speech at this point that could motivate his players any more than they are at this stage of the series.

"There will be versions of a bunch of different speeches woven together since the game doesn't change itself and we've been in three of these games so far," Maurice said. "Our approach from those three games will be our approach (Tuesday) night."

Good luck charm -- Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher will be cranking the ceremonial siren just prior to the opening faceoff Tuesday. The Hurricanes are 1-1 when the resident of Raleigh and former North Carolina State linebacker has been selected to sound the siren.

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.


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