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Hurricanes' Eric Staal excited to return to lineup

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- After shedding his yellow non-contact jersey for practice Monday, Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal said he plans to return against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET, FS-CR, SNV).

Staal, who has missed five games because of an upper-body injury, is eager to help Carolina win its first game after a team-worst 0-5-2 start.

"It's never fun watching, especially when you are not in the win column," Staal said. "I'm excited to get back in there."

Eric Staal
Center - CAR
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 3 | +/-: -2
Watching the Hurricanes struggle hasn't been easy for Staal or his brother and fellow Carolina center Jordan Staal, who broke his leg during a preseason game and is expected to miss the first three or four months of the season. The two have been exchanging text messages while watching games, Eric from the press box and Jordan at home.

"It's no fun for either of us," Eric said. "It's probably harder on him. I am back out there with guys and I'm excited for that."

First-year coach Bill Peters is happy to have at least one Staal back, especially after a start that also included top-six forward Jeff Skinner missing the first four games of the season because of a concussion. But Peters cautioned not to expect too much from Staal, who had a goal and an assist in his first two games before getting hurt in a game at the New York Islanders on Oct. 11.

"To get your leader back and a real good player it helps," Peters said. "So we're looking forward to it and we're realistic. He's been out a while and we'll have to manage his minutes properly."

Hurricanes forward Nathan Gerbe, who was fourth on the team in goals last season, was still in a non-contact yellow jersey Monday, but is close to returning after missing three games because of a lower-body injury. The additions should help a young, inexperienced lineup that is still learning a new system.

"Now you are able to bump guys down the lineup to where they should be as young guys and it gives you a little more depth and helps your power play," Peters said.

Staal insisted he was seeing some good things from the press box despite the poor start, but admitted injuries to key veterans has made it harder for the team to adjust to a new system under Peters.

"Bill is and is going to be a very good coach," Staal said. "He is very detailed, very black and white as to what he wants, and it's tough when we have some bigger names not in our lineup out and we're working to get through things. He's done a good job making sure everyone is prepared and on the same page and now we have to keep building and gaining that confidence in each other and the things we have to do. That has to stay consistent. It has been there at times, but it had to be consistent for 60 minutes."

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