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Jared Staal takes brothers' advice seriously

by Lindsay Kramer
Jared Staal is ready to start adding to the family package of pro hockey highlights, just like the ones he used to check out every morning.

He'd reach for the clicker knowing he'd find some combination of older brothers Eric (Carolina Hurricanes), Marc (New York Rangers), and Jordan (Pittsburgh Penguins) flashing across the screen.

"It's exciting every day, waking up, watching SportsCenter, seeing them on it," he said. "I'm enjoying my brothers' success. There is pressure. I understand how people expect me to be like my brothers. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I worry about myself, listen to my coaches."

That's good enough to satisfy San Antonio for now.

Staal, 19, has signed a tryout deal to join the Rampage for the rest of the season, and perhaps begin the task of growing the family pro hockey tree. The right wing played five games with San Antonio last season, but returned to Sudbury of the Ontario Hockey League this season, where he had 12 goals and 49 points in 59 games.

"I'm more comfortable coming in, knowing some of the guys," said Staal, a second-round pick by Phoenix in 2008. "It's a lot easier that way. I hopefully get in a few games here, play my game, work hard. I don't think I have to do anything too fancy if I get out there, just show them that I want it."

That would be the embodiment of the advice Staal gets from his brothers, each of whom he said he checks in with at least once a week.

"They all say the same thing -- work hard and good things will happen," he said. "Soak everything in. This is the life you want to live, pro hockey. It (more scrutiny) comes with all the success my brothers have had. People will watch me more than other players. I think that's good. Especially where I am right now, I need people watching me."

At 6-foot-3 and 198 pounds, and with one of hockey's most famous last names on the back of his sweater, that shouldn't be a problem.

"I'm a big kid out there. I see the ice fairly well. I think I'm more a playmaker than a shooter," he said. "I think I need to learn to use my size to my advantage more. This is a big couple weeks for me here. I have two weeks to make a good impression."

Heart of the matter -- When Toronto Marlies forward Ryan Hamilton speaks of having more jump in his game these days, he's doing more than falling back on a hockey cliché.

He's talking straight from the heart.

Hamilton is racing back from a physical challenge that reaches far beyond the typical tears and sprains endemic to his sport. When he began to feel dizzy and disoriented earlier this season, an exam revealed he had an irregular heartbeat.

He needed a procedure to repair the problem and get his ticker working normally again. Although it wasn't as extreme as full open-heart surgery, the operation still kept him out from Dec. 4 to Feb. 17.

"It's minor in regard to risk, but it was bigger than hockey at the time," said Hamilton, 24. "Any time you deal with that, you're a little nervous. You are holding back on your training. You don't know what you can push at that time. This was something I never went through before."

Hamilton said he's exerted himself without any concern or problems since coming back. He was pointless in six February games, but rebounded to make March his best month of the season, with 7 goals and 2 assists.

"I got cleared by doctors. I think I've done every single test that's out there in terms of the heart," he said. "That was the one thing I was taking away from this. The body feels great. They fixed what was wrong. Having that operation will hopefully benefit me in the long run and help my game out."

Vicarious shifts -- Of all the assists that Manchester forward Marc Andre-Cliché dishes out this season, his most important might be the one he fed to a guy sitting in the stands.

That helper went to Monarchs forward Trevor Lewis, who sat out from Nov. 11 to March 5 with a shoulder injury. Lewis passed the time during games trying to study players with styles similar to him, and he locked in on Cliché. The focus on his teammate distracted Lewis from the frustration of the moment and helped keep him mentally alert.

"Obviously, everyone does everything different," Lewis said. "But there're guys on my team that I'm similar to. I'd watch him a lot. He'd ask me how (he) played, I'd tell him. I tried to keep my head in the game, so when I came back it wasn't that big a jump. So much is the mental side of it. The first couple of games (watching), you just want to be out there. I tried to calm myself down, tell myself you can't get this mad every game."

"They all say the same thing -- work hard and good things will happen. Soak everything in. This is the life you want to live, pro hockey. It (more scrutiny) comes with all the success my brothers have had. People will watch me more than other players. I think that's good. Especially where I am right now, I need people watching me." -- Jared Staal

Lewis, Los Angeles' first-round pick in 2006, had a lot of reason for pent-up steam. He was coming off a 20-31 season for Manchester last season and the injury followed a send-down from a five-game trial with the Kings. He was pointless in his first six games back from the ailment, but has 3 goals and 1 assist in the six games since.

"Everyone is in midseason form. I'm just coming back," said Lewis, 23. "I realized I've missed a lot of the season. I just have to help the team move forward. It felt good to finally score again. It was a big relief. Hopefully I can keep doing it."
Around the AHL -- On March 27, Hershey's Alexandre Giroux became just the 18th player in AHL history to score 300 career regular-season goals. More than one-third of those goals have come in the last 18 months, as Giroux has followed his 60-goal campaign from last season with a league-leading 42 so far in 2009-10. ... The Bears have drawn crowds in excess of 10,000 for each of their last eight home games, and the team's season average of 9,524 is on pace to be the highest in the AHL in the last 10 years. ... Providence, which had not topped the 10,000 mark for a game since March 2007, has done so for three of its last four home dates, while Grand Rapids has gone over 10,000 three-straight times at Van Andel Arena. ... Hamilton's 4-0 win against Abbotsford on March 27 included several franchise landmarks. It was the Bulldogs' 12th shutout of the season, tying the record for most whitewashes in one season. The win was Hamilton's 49th of the season, which ties the record for most regular-season victories. And it was also the club's 26th road win, a franchise record and two shy of the AHL mark. ... After netting just one hat trick in the first 73 games of the season, the River Rats scored two in a row last week. Jerome Samson posted the first hat trick of his career in a 6-2 win at Adirondack on March 23, and rookie Zac Dalpe netted his first trick in just his fourth professional game in Albany's 5-2 win in Syracuse on March 26. .... Jon DiSalvatore's goal output in his seven AHL seasons are 22, 22, 22, 21, 22, 20 and now 21 with seven games remaining in Houston's season. ... The Griffins will make their first-ever visit to Abbotsford this weekend, marking the 49th arena, 41st city and sixth Canadian province in which they've played since their 1996 inception.

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