It has been all about family recently for Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Staal, recovered from a broken leg, has been centering a line with his brother Eric on the wing. That has been interesting.
Jordan’s wife, Heather, gave birth early Friday to a daughter, Abigail. That was the same day funeral services were held for the Staals’ maternal grandfather in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
“Lots of ups and down, and it was almost like I turned numb,” Jordan Staal said Monday. “It all came on so fast. I don’t really feel the reality sometimes of what’s gone on and happened. I’m sure down the road I’ll look back and reflect on the passing and the newborn. It’s been an amazing few days.”
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Staal missed the first 35 games of the season after suffering a broken right fibula in a preseason exhibition game. He made his season debut Dec. 29 against the Montreal Canadiens, a day after the death of his grandfather John VanderZwaag, who was 88.
Jordan regrets not being able to attend the services in his hometown, not being able to be with his mother, Linda. But he was able to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.
“I don’t think Gramps would have been too upset with my own child being born,” Jordan said. “That was a blessing.”
For now, Jordan Staal has turned his attention to hockey, to playing with his brother. The Hurricanes (12-23-4) will take a two-game winning streak into their road game Tuesday against the Nashville Predators after a 2-1 shootout win Sunday against the Boston Bruins.
Former Canes coach Kirk Muller briefly used Eric at wing on Jordan’s line. Late in the 2012-2013 season, the Hurricanes called up forward Jared Staal from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, and Muller started the three brothers on the same line against the New York Rangers.
Bill Peters, in his first year as the Canes coach, likes the look of having Eric on the left wing with Jordan in the middle. Elias Lindholm has been the right winger in recent games, and Peters said he may try others on the right side.
But Staal and Staal together? “We’ll stay with that for the foreseeable future,” Peters said.
Peters mentioned using the Staals together during preseason training camp. That talk ended when Jordan Staal suffered the broken leg.
When Jordan made his season debut, Eric Staal had been slowed by a sore foot after being hit by a shot. It was an easy move for Peters to shift him from center to the wing.
Eric Staal says the foot is feeling better, and a stronger stride shows it. Peters said Eric looks comfortable on the wing, and the line has produced some good offensive chances.
With a little luck, Eric Staal could have had a hat trick against the Bruins. Once, he had an open net, only to have the puck go off the arm of Bruins forward Daniel Paille.
Eric Staal did have the winning goal in the shootout, beating goalie Tuukka Rask with a forehand.
“That was a great shot,” Jordan said, smiling. “He had a ton of chances during the game, and the line I thought did a lot of good things and created a lot.”
Peters said having Jordan Staal back in the lineup is like “night and day.” At 6-foot-4 and 237 pounds, Staal offers the type of physicality the Canes have generally lacked.
“I like him. I like him a lot,” Peters said. “You can put him in every situation imaginable. He’s a very intelligent hockey player and a very competitive hockey player.
“Staalsy’s a horse. He’s the type of player everybody wants. He can play against the best players on the other team, he can be used in so many ways.”
Eric Staal played on Jordan’s line in a game for Team Canada during the 2007 World Championship. He also was on the wing in the 2010 Winter Olympics when Canada took the gold medal.
Eric Staal said regardless of the position he’ll take the same approach. “Hopefully be around the puck a lot, attack the net, use my size and speed, shoot a lot of pucks,” he said.
Staal had goals in three straight games before Sunday and has 10 for the season, tied for the team high with Jiri Tlusty.
The Predators game is the annual fathers’ trip for the Canes, and Henry Staal again is with his sons. Jordan, smiling, said Eric “pulled rank” as the oldest – Henry will share a room with Jordan, and Eric will have a room to himself.
Jordan and Eric Staal figure to be linemates for a while.
At least for a game, Jordan and Henry can be roommates.