At the rink
Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal has already returned to Carolina, his NHL home for more than 900 games. He played in his 1,000th game in the League last month.
On Tuesday, he'll get to celebrate the milestone with his former team in town when the Wild hosts the Hurricanes in its final regular season game of the season at Xcel Energy Center.
Drafted second overall by Carolina in the 2003 NHL Draft, Staal played 909 games with the club until the trade deadline last season, when he was shipped to the New York Rangers for the final 20 games of the season.
The game Tuesday will mark his 80th in a Wild sweater and 1,009th in his NHL career, but the organization wanted to hold off on officially celebrating the milestone until Carolina came to town.
"It's pretty cool. When they approached me to say that's what they were thinking of doing, I had never really thought about it. I thought it was pretty classy," Staal said. "Obviously, I spent a lot of time there, a majority of games have been there. They do the stick pass thing, so to be able to do that with them here, and [my brother] Jordan here, it'll be pretty special."
Video: Wild Pregame vs. Hurricanes
In addition to his brother, his parents, his wife and his children are all expected to take part in a pre-game ceremony where Staal will receive the Silver Stick, emblematic of reaching 1,000 NHL games.
"It's gonna be interesting. I have a two-year-old, so we'll see how he does," Staal said. "They're excited. They've been talking about it for the last little while, my kids, just being out there.
"They love the vibe of the beginning of the game here. It's a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, so for them to be right down on ice level, in the mix for that, and enjoy being out on the ice, it'll be cool for them."
For Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, adding Staal to the roster last summer was an unquestioned success. The 32-year-old leads the Wild with 27 goals and is second with 61 points.
He's also brought a valuable veteran presence to the room as the only player currently on the roster who has hoisted the Stanley Cup, something he did with Carolina in 2006.
"He's a pro in every sense of the word," Boudreau said. "He's everything that I was hoping that he'd be and more. For him today, especially to get honored when Carolina's in town, that's a pretty neat thing considering that's where the bulk of his career was and that's where his brother plays, and I'm really happy for him."
Video: Bruce Boudreau Pregame vs. Hurricanes
In addition to the pre-game ceremony for Staal, the Wild will also wear 1967 North Stars jerseys during warmups, a tribute to the franchise that introduced NHL hockey to Minnesota 50 years ago, as part of the Wild's Fan Celebration.
It will be a surreal moment for Zach Parise, whose father J.P. was a North Stars legend. J.P. played nine seasons in a North Stars sweater and wore No. 11, like Zach does with the Wild. The jersey he wears tonight will look the same as the one his father wore during the team's inaugural season in Minnesota.
"A couple of months ago, I saw a picture of the jerseys. I think it's gonna be cool," Parise said. "There's a lot of fans in the building tonight [who] loved watching the North Stars just like I did. I think it's great for us to kind of pay tribute to those guys. It's gonna be really neat; I wish we could wear them for the game."
Here are the projected lineups:
Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Zach Parise
Erik Haula - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund
Charlie Coyle - Martin Hanzal - Jason Pominville
Jordan Schroeder - Joel Eriksson Ek - Ryan White
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin - Christian Folin
Sebastian Aho - Jordan Staal - Teuvo Teravainen
Joakim Nordstrom - Victor Rask - Elias Lindholm
Jeff Skinner - Derek Ryan - Lee Stempniak
Bryan Bickell - Andrew Poturalski - Brock McGinn
Jaccob Slavin - Brett Pesce
Noah Hanifin - Justin Faulk
Klas Dahlbeck - Matt Tennyson
The Hurricanes have managed to stay in the playoff hunt -- mathematically, at least -- thanks to a recent stretch of good play. After defeating the Wild in Raleigh, the Canes went on to win six of their next 10 games and snag points in two of their four losses. Though they're likely to miss the postseason this year, Carolina has the second-youngest squad and lowest cap hit in the League, giving them much to build on during the offseason. Jeff Skinner's 58 points in 75 games lead Carolina, and goaltender Cam Ward has 26 wins on the season (Eddie Lack owns seven).
• Staal was drafted by Carolina in the first round (second overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and collected 775 points (322- 453=775) and 678 PIM in 909 games in 12 seasons (2003-16). He ranks first on the Hurricanes all-time list in short-handed goals (16) and shots (3,033), second in goals, power-play goals (105), game-winning goals (47), assists and points and ranks third in games played.
• Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal is the brother of Eric Staal.
• Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk is a native of South St. Paul.
• Hurricanes defenseman Matt Tennyson is a Minneapolis native.
No place like home
The matchup against the Hurricanes will be the Wild's last regular season contest at Xcel Energy Center during the 2016-17 campaign. The Wild is 26-12-2 at home this season, including an eight-game home win streak (Nov. 23-Dec. 31) that tied the franchise record for the longest win streak on home ice. Minnesota is tied for fourth in the League in home wins with Chicago.
Celebrating the fans
Fan Celebration night also includes the annual Jerseys Off Our Backs giveaway in which fans will be selected randomly to receive game-worn Wild sweaters from tonight's contest, each delivered and autographed by its respective player in a special on-ice ceremony following the game.