Jordan Staal stepped foot inside PNC Arena for the first time last July when he met the media after being traded to and signing his 10-year contract extension with the Carolina Hurricanes.
It was expected that the 24-year-old would make his on-ice debut just a few short months later, but a 113-day work stoppage prolonged the wait.
Now, he couldn’t be more excited – or relieved – that he’ll be in the team’s newly renovated locker room in mere days.
“It’s been tough and frustrating for a lot of players, but especially for me,” Staal said. “I really want to be a part of the organization, get to know everyone and get the season started.”
“It hasn’t felt like he’s been part of our team yet,” Eric Staal said on Monday. “He wants to play in front of our fans.”
Though he hasn’t set foot in the arena since the summer, Jordan Staal has tried to stay busy in the Triangle. He and his wife settled into their new home in October.
“We’re really getting comfortable with the city,” the Thunder Bay, Ont., native said. “We love it, and we’re excited to be here for a long time.”
Aside from an extended two-week break at Christmas that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible, Staal has been a part of the small group of Hurricanes players skating thrice a week at Raleigh Center Ice.
That group, now ballooning as training camp draws nearer, is skating each morning this week at RCI with a noticed jolt in intensity.
“The guys have been having some good skates the last few days, trying to build it back up again,” he said. “Just trying to stay prepared for the season.”
One of two new top six forwards set to be in the Canes lineup on opening night, Staal was looking forward to a normal training camp and large exhibition schedule, in which head coach Kirk Muller and his staff would have been experimenting and tweaking the combinations. Now, all 30 NHL teams are facing the reality of a week-long training camp, at best.
With talented new faces, is chemistry a concern? Not for Staal.
“I think everyone is probably in the same situation. It’s going to be tight,” he said. “You just have to do the best you can and find a way to get that chemistry as quick as possible to generate wins right off the bat.”
After the start of the season, it will be a mad dash for mid- to late-April. Coached by three former players who have experienced a shortened season (John MacLean won the Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in the 1994-95 48-game season), Staal is well aware of the stakes.
“Every game is going to be that much bigger. To get a good start is a big thing,” he said. “Being prepared for every game and the beginning of the season are the keys.”
Until the start of the season, still yet to be determined, there is much preparation to be done. Staal, who will make his on-ice debut with the Hurricanes very soon, is happy to be skating with a clear purpose.
“With the light at the end of the tunnel finally here, the guys are excited to get going,” he said.
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