Hurricanes get Staal back before facing lowly Kings
The Carolina Hurricanes have been in a good groove, and now it could be getting better.
They have center Jordan Staal back.
He should make his first home outing in quite some time Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings in Raleigh, N.C.
Staal missed more than two months because of a concussion, out of the lineup since Dec. 22. He made his return in Saturday's 3-0 victory at Dallas.
"I can't say enough about him," Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "He was great. Obviously, his conditioning for game-wise isn't all that great, so I couldn't use him as much as I would like to."
Staal logged just shy of 14 minutes, becoming the team's primary player in the circle for face-offs. He posted an assist, with his presence providing a veteran influence at a time when some contending teams were trading to gain that type of experience.
In Carolina's case, the boost comes in getting a healthy player back in action. Staal, 30, missed 32 games during a 34-game stretch.
With Staal in the lineup, it should alleviate some responsibility for center Lucas Wallmark.
"Now I think it's a little better for him to not have that pressure on him that we had to put on him," Brind'Amour said.
The Hurricanes have won eight of their last 10 games as they jockey for playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
"Everybody is contributing in some form or fashion," Brind'Amour said. "That's what we need to keep going."
The Hurricanes have received stellar goaltending recently from Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek.
"Both guys have been just great for us," Brind'Amour said. "It builds us a lot of confidence for the group to just go out and just play."
Los Angeles is on an eight-game losing streak (0-5-3).
The Kings wrap up a four-game road swing with the game in Raleigh. They lost 4-3 in a shootout to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.
Earlier in the day, the Kings made a trade, sending defenseman Oscar Fantenberg, who played in 46 games this season, to the Calgary Flames for a conditional draft pick.
Los Angeles general manager Rob Blake said the team discussed numerous potential trades with other teams but didn't find many fits. He tried to be reassuring to players on the team.
"Difficult conversations, for sure, with the matter of individuals on the team," Blake said. "They're not easy conversations. I tried to be as upfront and honest."
The Kings are last in the Western Conference standings. With the trade deadline in the past, there could be tweaks to game lineups.
"There will be some young guys in the lineup," Blake said. "There's no doubt about it, but our veterans need to lead, and we'll get on that right away."
The Kings defeated Carolina 2-0 on Dec. 2 in Los Angeles in the only previous meeting of the season.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 26, 2019