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Eric Staal Set to Return in Vancouver

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
Michael Smith

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VANCOUVER – Still searching for their first victory of the regular season, the Carolina Hurricanes will get a big – literally big at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds – boost on Tuesday with the addition of captain Eric Staal to the lineup.

“I’ll be in tomorrow, and I’m excited to get back in there,” Staal said. “It’s never fun watching, especially when you’re not in the win column.”

Staal has missed the team’s last five games with an upper-body injury suffered on Oct. 11 in New York. Head coach Bill Peters had optimistically targeted Tuesday’s game in Vancouver for Staal’s return, and it looks as if the 29-year-old center is ready, as he skated with contact in practice on Monday.

“He’s felt pretty good,” Peters said. “When you’re struggling, to get your leader back and a very good player, it helps.”

Staal, who has now missed just 20 games due to injury in his 11-year NHL career, looks to draw back into the lineup in his usual first-line center position, flanked on either side by Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin. He’ll also play a crucial role on the team’s power play, which has converted just once on its last 14 attempts.

“He’s a big, strong guy,” Peters said. “Now you’re able to bump guys down in the lineup to where they should be as young guys, and it just gives you a little more depth at that position.”

Staal turns 30 years old on Wednesday. A win – the team’s first of the season – in his first game back in the lineup in over two weeks would be icing on the cake.

“We’re going to need to [build momentum],” he said. “It’s still early, so we’ll focus on tomorrow night to try to get two big points in Vancouver.”

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