Eric Staal is hurt.
These words rank among the scariest things a Carolina Hurricanes fan can hear, second only to, “The new neighbors are Buffalo Sabres fans.” Whether or not Staal is actually hurt is something that will only be settled when the team takes the ice Sunday night to face the Nashville Predators.
The uncertainty comes from Staal leaving Saturday night’s game against the New York Islanders early, as reports have it. Staal sustained some variety of lower body injury in Thursday’s win against the Washington Capitals, then attempted to “play through it” on Saturday. The team’s injury report does not include Staal, however, there has been nothing solid about his status. It is true that Riley Nash is out for as many as 10 days with a lower body injury, however, there is no word on Staal.
In all likelihood, Staal will skate against Nashville. If there was no announcement that night, it’s more than fair to think he will suit up, however, this might not be that great of an idea. Carolina has already demonstrated their ability to handle injured players; it’s been the theme of the entire season. However, to lose their captain and de facto team leader would be devastating. It would behoove both Staal and head coach Kirk Muller to take a ‘wait and see’ approach when it comes to the captain.
If it’s not severe enough to immediately list him on injured reserve, then it’s nothing that won’t heal in a week or two, maximum. With a short window to rest it up, it’s a foolish move to ice a player who may still be nursing any type of injury. Putting Staal on the ice if he’s still iffy is to roll the dice with yet one more solid pilar of the team.
Staal can miss a game. If there’s anything the Hurricanes can do, it’s fill in holes.