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Carolina to adjust lines to reunite Staal and Cole?

by Shawn P. Roarke /
BOSTON -- Maybe Carolina coach Paul Maurice just wanted to make sure the attending media was paying attention on a sleepy Sunday morning at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Asked about the struggles of Eric Staal in Friday's Game 1 loss -- no points, two shots, a minus-1 rating -- Maurice said Staal will not play in Sunday night's Game 2.

"We're benching him," Maurice said in response to how Staal can get untracked against these Bruins, who send tower of power Zdeno Chara out on ice every time Staal every time hops over the boards. "We're not playing him tonight."

That pronouncement was met with the appropriate laughter, but underlies a bigger concern for Maurice and the Canes heading into Game 2. Staal has been asked to carry this team on his enormous shoulders because there has been little secondary scoring for long stretches in the playoffs.

"You have to keep in mind this is never a one-man sport," Maurice said, turning serious. "Occasionally, it is for the goalies. But, there are four other people on the ice that need to be effective with Eric and found a way to be effective with Eric against a very strong five-man New Jersey defense. Clearly, Chara is a world-class defenseman, but we have to find a way to get to the other four guys that are on the ice against him and Eric has to find a way to use the four guys on the ice with him."

Staal, for one, is not panicking. He leads the team with five goals this postseason and still has the positive vibes from his huge goal against New Jersey in Game 7 running through his veins.

But, there is a clear consensus that something will have to chance in Game 2. Will it be change of personnel on Staal's wings, something that happened in the second half of Game 1?

"I wouldn't tell if I did," Maurice said when asked about line changes. "You're going to allow the puck to be dropped before I show you that, right?"

While not tipping his hand, there is a good chance that Chad LaRose will be bumped from that line, replaced by the bigger, more physical Erik Cole, who has yet to score this postseason. Cole moved up to the first line in the second half of Game 1.

If that is how things play out Sunday night, Cole says he is ready for duty on Staal's flank.

"You still have to do the same things and play the way that makes you successful," Cole told "I think we had a couple of good shifts, but nothing that was sustainable pressure. That is something that we will focus on tonight."
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