GREENBURGH, N.Y. — In the last game before his first Stanley Cup playoff series since 2009, Eric Staal got a scare. But any concern is behind him, he said Monday, and the former Carolina Hurricanes captain is pumped for a challenge against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Late in the second period Saturday, while tangling in the faceoff circle, teammate Jesper Fast’s leg struck Staal in the neck and head, a collision that left him facedown and forced him out of the game.
“It’s one of those things. He caught me a little bit. It was a little scary for a second,” Staal said Monday. “We checked all the boxes we needed to after the game. I took a day off [Sunday] and I’m not worried about anything: 100 percent, game on, ready to go.”
Staal, 31, a lifelong center who has three goals and six points in the 19 games since the trade and has played with numerous linemates in the transition, has settled in on left wing but still takes faceoffs. He won seven of eight Saturday.
“I feel his line with Kevin [Hayes] and Jesper [Fast] has been very efficient in the last four or five games, and we got a guy there that’s got two playoff experiences. He’s won and got to the Finals,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We’re banking that he’ll share his experience, his love of the game, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he wants to win and he wants to win bad, so he’s going to bring it, and we’re going to benefit from it.”
Staal and his teammates, including his younger brother Marc, were wearing dark blue T-shirts with the word “FAMILY”, the team’s chosen playoff motto, in red letters on the back.
Asked if the brothers had stuffed the ballot boxes in the vote to select the slogan, Marc Staal said: “It was kind of organic. We talked about different things in the last couple weeks, bounced things around.”
Said Eric Staal: “No, it was a collective choice. But it is funny, I felt the same thing. With us, it’s real bloodlines.”