Staal Expected to Play Friday
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Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said that captain Eric Staal, who left Tuesday’s win against the Ottawa Senators with 10 minutes remaining and did not return, is expected to play Friday in Tampa Bay. Staal, who suffered a lower-body injury during the game, did not practice Wednesday and may also miss Thursday’s session.
“Our plan hasn’t changed,” said Maurice. “There were good signs today when he came in. We’ll keep him off the ice today and tomorrow, but we expect him to be full and ready to go.”
Maurice said that Staal wanted to return to the game with around six minutes remaining, but that the team decided to err on the side of caution with a two-goal load. The outcome of the game ended up being closer than the Canes would have hoped when Ottawa scored to bring it within one and applied significant pressure for the tying goal, but in the end, Staal wasn’t needed to seal the victory.
“We have to be able to win a game and close the deal without putting him at risk,” said Maurice. “It was a bit of a gamble, but I just didn’t want to put it at risk.”
Goaltender Cam Ward also did not skate on Tuesday, with the Canes sparing him from more and more practices as the season draws to a close in order to keep him fresh. In more of a surprise development, Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose were also off the ice, though Maurice said he had no concerns with either player.
“Rosey skated 300-400 miles last night, so I figured he had covered enough,” said Maurice. “Jussi just has some minor stuff, but there’s no issues with it.”
The Canes have another practice day on Thursday before departing to Tampa Bay for the first of a back-to-back, home-and-home set against the Lightning. Maurice said that the team would spend part of that time trying to figure out why they’ve had slow starts in their last two games against the New York Islanders and Ottawa.
“We talk about wanting to come and be real strong in the first period, and I don’t think we have been,” said Maurice. “I think we’ve been behind the puck a little bit and not pressing that offensive game where we really like to jump and go.
“It’s a bit of a concern for us. We’ve got to get to that loose anger earlier in the game. You can call it desperation, but it’s got to be more focused than that. It can’t be just one guy fighting like a dog. We have to move together a little better and a little quicker.”