Carolina Hurricanes: 5 players who need to step up in Aho’s absence

RALEIGH, NC - DECEMBER 29: Jeff Skinner #53 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates for position on the ice during an NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 29, 2017 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - DECEMBER 29: Jeff Skinner #53 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates for position on the ice during an NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 29, 2017 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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RALEIGH, NC – JANUARY 14: Jordan Staal #11 of the Carolina Hurricanes carries the puck during an NHL game against the Calgary Flames on January 14, 2018 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC – JANUARY 14: Jordan Staal #11 of the Carolina Hurricanes carries the puck during an NHL game against the Calgary Flames on January 14, 2018 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /

109. . Center. 28 Points. Jordan Staal. 1. player

Staal is far and away the most important player that needs to respond well to the Aho injury. Not only is he one of the co-captains, along with defenseman Justin Faulk, he’s a skilled first line center with the potential to have a career-best season.

His production comes in spurts this season, but he’s had a few massive moments in January already. A shorthanded goal in a 3-1 road win, over a Metro foe in the Washington Capitals, was a major factor in one of Carolina’s biggest wins so far.

In his last five outings, Staal racked up five points. He’s taking off at the right time, so that the Canes can possibly get hot down the stretch. It’s nice that the Canes are in position to stay in the playoff race halfway through.

Next: 3 reasons Sebastian Aho's injury kills any playoff hopes for the Canes

Usually Staal is part of a team in position to climb out of the basement of the division standings. But, he’s helped the team get in a good spot in the Metro, and in the conference overall. His help needs to continue for the Canes to stay in a good position.