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Staal vs. Staal: Playoff Style

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
In a series with many subplots, one of the more intriguing has to be the match-up between Hurricanes center Eric Staal and his younger brother, Penguins center Jordan Staal.

Paul Branecky
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It’s not just that their teams will facing off against each other. Eric is the Hurricanes’ biggest scoring threat, while Jordan’s job will be to shut down the Hurricanes’ biggest scoring threat. Over the next few weeks, these two should see more of each other than they have since eldest brother Eric first left the sod farm in Thunder Bay.

“Well, he's obviously played well against the other teams' top lines in the last two series, or they wouldn't be where they are right now,” said Eric, 24, in a joint conference call held Friday afternoon.

“It's just another big challenge for myself, for my line and for my team,” said Jordan, the third of the four Staal brothers at 20 years of age.  “You know, it will make it that much more interesting.”

Yeah, yeah. Boring. Who will actually get the better of the match-up?

“I'm due for a big game, a real big game,” said Eric.

“So am I,” said Jordan. “Huge game.  I’m going to break out in the series like crazy.”

That’s more like it.

The Staal-on-Staal playoff series is something Eric has long been anticipating. Jordan’s Penguins played against Marc Staal’s New York Rangers in last year’s playoffs – a five-game victory for Jordan - so he’s already had that experience. Still, he made it clear that he’s looking forward to this year’s edition.

“I was lying on my couch and as soon as they scored, I was jumping up and down,” said Jordan of his reaction when the Canes beat Boston in overtime to ensure a sibling series. “When you have two Staals and one is moving on anyway to the Stanley Cup finals, that's always a good thing. There's no better feeling than to watch your brother win a big game like that.”

With each game in the playoffs carrying so much weight, Eric and Jordan will have front row seats to plenty of big wins for the other – just don’t expect any more congratulations until the handshake that officially ends the affair.  

Those who think the two will take it easy on each other have obviously never seen Staal brothers line up on opposite ends of the ice. Whenever there’s one puck in the corner and two Staals in the vicinity, the competitive drive first born on the backyard rink in Ontario has a way of rising to new heights.

“It's just so exciting to go out and play and just have that challenge,” said Jordan. “Obviously we're both really competitive and we both really want to win, so it will be a lot of fun.”

Both players are having good postseasons thus far. Among players still in contention for the Stanley Cup, Eric’s nine goals rank second behind Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (12). Jordan has just five points in the playoffs, but four of them have come in his last four games as played an intregral part in the Penguins’ seven-game series with Washington.

Although both players have the pedigree of being chosen second overall in their respective drafts, they have very different roles on their teams. Part of that is due to age, as Jordan is still four years younger, but part of it is also due to the other centers on Pittsburgh’s roster – Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Makin.

“They have two of the very best offensive players in the world on the same team, and that means their third line center is Jordan Staal,” said Hurricanes Coach Paul Maurice. “I don’t know that there’s a stronger team down the middle.”

During today’s call, the question was inevitable, thanks to the NHL commercial that ran all of last season:

Will this series hold the key as to who is dad’s favorite?

“Who knows who the old man is going to cheer for,” said Jordan. “I'm sure he'll be excited to watch every game.”

“Yeah, he'll be entertained, no question,” said Eric.
As will the rest of us.

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