– Tuesday, Oct. 14 marked the first game since Feb. 26, 2011 that a Staal brother had not dressed for the Carolina Hurricanes, a span of 233 games.
A week later, Eric Staal is back on the ice, skating in a yellow, no-contact sweater as he progresses through rehabbing an upper-body injury he suffered Oct. 11 in New York.
“It’s day-by-day,” he said after skating with the team on Wednesday in Calgary. “It’s no fun watching, but it is what it is.”
Wednesday marked the second straight day in which Staal had skated with the Canes. Being optimistic, head coach Bill Peters said there’s a chance the 29-year-old center could play next Tuesday in Vancouver.
“That’s what we’re shooting for,” Peters said. “There’s no contact yet, so we’ll see. There’s time, and time is on his side. We don’t play in Vancouver until Tuesday, and we’d love to have him.”
The Canes have slowly but surely been replenishing their lineup with principal players lost to injury. Jeff Skinner, who missed the team’s first four games of the season with a concussion, returned on Tuesday in Winnipeg. Staal, who was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday afternoon and can come off at any point, figures to be the next one back in the lineup.
“Key pieces to the lineup have been out, especially two big guys down the middle,” Staal said. “We have to battle and keep working to try to get one here in Calgary tomorrow.”
Being without a Staal in the lineup – Eric, especially – hasn’t been commonplace for the Hurricanes. Now in his 11th career NHL season, Staal has missed just 20 games (18 due to injury). Last season, he missed three games with a lower-body injury.
“This one is just kind of unlucky. There’s nothing I could have done. It’s unfortunate, and it’s tough watching,” he said. “I like being out there regardless. I like to think I can play through a lot, but this is one where I have to be smart and make sure it’s healed up.
“You feel like you could grit your teeth and go, but sometimes that’s going to hurt you in the long run,” he continued. “It’s about doing everything you can do in other areas to get yourself healthy and get back out there to help your teammates.”