RALEIGH, N.C. – Following practice on Sunday, Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters confirmed that forward Jordan Staal would be in the lineup to face the Montreal Canadiens at PNC Arena on Monday.
Since breaking his fibula during a preseason game against the Buffalo Sabres in late September, the Hurricanes assistant captain has not played at all during the NHL regular season, missing all 35 of the team’s contests played to date.
Though he has been skating regularly for the past three to four weeks, Staal has practiced enough at full speed and with contact to make his season debut against the Habs.
“I’d be shocked if he doesn’t play tomorrow,” Peters said.
“It’s been a long wait, but he’s worked very hard. We did a lot of battling today in general as a team to make sure Staalsy got some extra reps in, but he should be fine.”
Staal worked on a line with brother Eric playing the wing along with Nathan Gerbe as hundreds of season-ticket holders looked on from the stands as part of a closed event the team held for them.
As much as fans will be excited to finally see Staal play, so will Peters who has been busy along with his staff in game-planning when, where, and how much to use the six-foot-four-inch, 220-pound center in his first game.
“We gotta’ make sure we spread out his shifts – I think he’s gonna’ be able to play good minutes, quality minutes. I just gotta’ make sure they’re not all back-to-back.”
“It’ll give us some options down the middle,” Peters continued.
“Now we can leave Rasker there. We can leave Nasher there. If wanna’ play Eric and Jordan, we can. We drew a bunch of line combinations up this morning. We’ll see what we come up with. At least now we have some options that we like.”
With an expectant feel-good moment to wash over the arena as a result of Staal’s return and presence, one person in particular couldn’t be more looking forward to the occasion than the team captain himself.
“It’ll be good – I’m excited for him,” Eric said.
“Obviously, it’s been a long haul throughout the season. Not the way you wanted it to start for him or for us. He’s worked real hard to come back. He’s worked real hard off the ice rehabbing and he’s done all the right things to ensure himself the best chance to be goin’. It’s gonna’ be tough 35 games into the season. It’s not easy for anyone to jump in on the go, but he’s a great athlete and a guy who’s gonna’ be able to handle that. I’m excited for him to get started tomorrow.”