The Hurricanes have been playing some of the best hockey that they have in years over the past three weeks, going 6-3-1 with a mere 17 goals against in their past 10 games. However, keeping the momentum going is about to get much more difficult with center Jordan Staal out of action indefinitely.
Staal, 28, landed himself on the injured reserve Monday with a concussion stemming from Sunday’s come-from-behind victory over the Florida Panthers. There’s no confirmation of when exactly Staal suffered the head injury, but he did suffer a blow to the head in his final shift of the game.
Behind the net midway through the first period, Staal made contact with and knocked down Panthers defenseman Jason Demers, which resulted in the rearguard’s stick coming up and catching Staal in the back of the head. Staal remained on the ice to finish out his shift, including a stellar defensive play in his own end, but he left the ice and entered into the league’s concussion protocol and didn’t return to action.
As is often the case with head injuries, it’s near impossible to tell when Staal will be able to return to action. The one positive in the situation, though, is that Staal has no history of concussions. Matter of fact, of all the games he’s missed during his career, only one injury could be considered an upper-body ailment, and that was a broken hand in 2010-11.
Entering the season, some considered Staal a potential frontrunner to take the Hurricanes’ vacant captaincy, which is the simplest way of indicating just how important the veteran center has become to the organization over his past four seasons with the club.
Though he’s not a prolific scorer and has only five goals and nine points in 21 games this season, but Staal is about as good a defensive forward as the team has and a crucial part of the penalty kill. Not only that, but he is among the most experienced players on the team and a two-way pivot that has no doubt helped in the development of the other young, like-minded Hurricanes centers such as Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm.
It seems unlikely, due to the nature of Staal’s injury, that he’s along for the trip with the Hurricanes as they get set to take on the New York Rangers, and he’ll likely miss the three-game road trip that sees Carolina take on the Rangers twice split up by an outing with the Boston Bruins. If Staal isn’t in shape to take the ice by Dec. 7, there’s a fair possibility he’ll be forced to miss the subsequent three-game road trip to California, too.
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