There are 25 games left on the Carolina Hurricanes’ schedule and three points between them and the final wild card playoff spot. It doesn’t need to be said, but this final month and a half of regular season action will be the most important stretch for the Hurricanes.
How they play will decide if the team makes the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and one player that will matter above the rest is captain Eric Staal.
Over the course of the season, the Canes have received strong goaltending at different stretches from Cam Ward, Justin Peters and Anton Khudobin, who is still the go-to in net. The defense has been formidable and much improved from last season, due mostly to the additions of Andrej Sekera and Ron Hainsey.
But the offense has been the most inconsistent and it hasn’t just been Staal, but if there is one player on the roster that can help bring consistency, it’s him.
The oldest Staal brother is the most well-known player on the team for his points production and has shown before he can lead the team into the playoffs and beyond in his 10 seasons with the team.
And it’s time for him to do it again. The Hurricanes have set themselves up for the best chance they’ve had at the postseason in a long time. If they want to prove they’re as good as they look on paper, the players have to bear down and put in a tremendous amount of effort over these 25 games.
Staal is where that effort needs to start. He’ll have over two weeks of rest by the time the Hurricanes take on the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, which is much more than other forwards Alexander Semin and Tuomo Ruutu, and he’ll be relied on to get the first line of him, Semin and Jiri Tlusty to get rolling again.
The Thunder Bay, Ontario native is having a decent season in points production, by his standards, with 45 points in 54 games, but obviously that needs to be improved if Carolina is to make the postseason.
On Tuesday, Staal and the rest of the Hurricanes will start the push for playoffs and while every player needs to be locked in on that goal, the success of the team will start with the captain.