For the first time in his six-year NHL career, Jordan Staal finds himself among new faces in a new dressing room.
But he’s not exactly a stranger in a strange land. The adjustment, he said, has gone pretty swimmingly.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Staal, who was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes on his wedding day on June 22. “We’ve got a great group of guys here. We’ve all been working hard and preparing for the upcoming season. I’m just having fun with it.”
Staal, who turned 24 today, is among the group of around 15 Hurricanes players that has been working out at Raleigh Center Ice since Tuesday of last week.
Prior to coming to the rink, Staal knew a few of his new teammates. His knew his brothers, Eric and Jared, obviously. He was teammates with Cam Ward on Team Canada’s gold medal squad at the 2007 IIHF World Championship in Moscow. He knew Jeff Skinner, who joined the workouts today, a little bit, as well.
“They’ve all been very welcoming and a lot of fun,” Staal said.
Staal was also roommates with Jiri Tlusty at the 2006 NHL Draft. Staal went No. 2 overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Tlusty, 13th to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But there wasn’t much dialogue between the two back then, as Tlusty, a native of Slany of the Czech Republic, didn’t speak any English.
“We didn’t have too much of a conversation during that draft,” Staal recalled. “But he’s doing a pretty good job now. I remember the first time I started talking to him, and he just didn’t understand and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s like that.’
“But he’s a great guy. Lot of fun. I’m excited about playing with everyone.”
Excited to be in front of Ward rather than facing him, too. Though, he has challenged him plenty during the informal skates to varying degrees of success.
“He’s not the easiest goalie to score against, so I don’t know if he knows my tendencies or not, but either way, he finds a way to stop most of them,” Staal said. “I’m going to try to get the best of him every time, but he makes it pretty difficult.”
The same group of about 15 players has also been training with strength and conditioning coach Pete Friesen at the Athletic Performance Center each morning.
When asked if he has become accustomed to Friesen’s up-tempo, high-energy style yet, the 6’4”, 220-pound center laughed.
“It’s good, though” Staal said. “Right now, every guy needs it to try to get training camp-ready to show the coach what we’ve got.”
Off the ice, Staal, who signed a 10-year contract extension with the Canes on July 1, isn’t as settled as he is on the ice. Though he and his wife are now Raleigh homeowners, they won’t be officially moved in for another few weeks.
“We haven’t got settled in yet, but we’re fortunate enough to find a nice place,” he said. “We’re excited about moving in and digging into the community.”
Staal is entering his seventh career NHL season, just 69 games shy of 500 NHL games played. He is a career plus-53 and has totaled 248 points (120g, 128a). He has yet to miss postseason action, playing in 73 career playoff games and recording 36 points (23g, 13a). He and the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009.
The Canes, who have experienced a three-season playoff drought, feel the acquisitions made this summer poise them for a return to the postseason. Staal is prepared to begin working toward that goal.
“It’s a new time for me,” Staal said. “It’s been a pretty easy transition considering we’ve got a good group of guys who can make it really easy. It’s been a lot of fun already for me so far, and I’m excited to play with these guys.”
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